Houston Cougars basketball bounces back from first conference loss, outlasts UCF in 82-71 win

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP/Shutterstock (13722007al) Houston guard Emanuel Sharp (21) moves the ball down court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tulane in New Orleans Houston Tulane Basketball, New Orleans, United States – 17 Jan 2023

Houston Cougars basketball bounces back from first conference loss, outlasts UCF in 82-71 win

The Houston Cougars basketball team shook off their first conference loss of the season with a hot offensive showing, especially from freshman Emanuel Sharp, against Central Florida in Orlando.

An 11-2 run in the early-to-middle portion of the second half helped carry the No. 3 Cougars (19-2, 7-1 American Athletic) past the Knights for an 82-71 victory on Wednesday night.

The run began with a corner 3-point basket from Sharp that was set up by a cross-court pass from junior guard Jamal Shead. UCF had a breakdown on defense attempting to apply full-court pressure on the Cougars when it left the dangerous marksman open in the corner.

On the following offensive possession, Houston senior Marcus Sasser gave his team a 60-50 lead with a nifty and crafty move that led to a layup in addition to contact from UCF senior forward Lahat Thioune for the and-one finish.

The Knights went down the floor and answered with a Thioune jumper, but Houston responded with another 3-point basket from Sharp. This one gave the Cougars a 63-52 lead. It was set up by an offensive rebound from sophomore big man Ja’Vier Francis. After the rebound, Sasser dished it out to Sharp for the long-range basket.

Houston built a 13-point lead a few possessions later off a driving layup by Shead, which was the largest advantage the Cougars held all night. The Cougars held the lead for most of the game but could not create substantial separation from the Knights until that run.

UCF hung around and cut UH’s lead to just five points around the seven-minute mark of the second half, but it was Sharp who helped deliver the final blow to the Knights. He hit his fourth 3-point basket of the game off another Houston offensive rebound and a pass from Shead.

On the next offensive possession, it was Houston freshman Terrance Arceneaux who hit a reverse layup to push the lead back up to 10 at 72-62.

When it was all said and done, Sharp finished with 18 points and three rebounds. Sasser ended the game with 14 points and four assists. He did not play for much of the final second-half stretch with four fouls.

Shead ended the game with 14 points and 10 assists. It is his second double-double of the season and the seventh of his collegiate career.

Houston freshman Jarace Walker had 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Walker scored nine of his points in the first 13 minutes of the game. He had the hot hand along with Sasser to open the contest against UCF.

Throughout the night, the Cougars had a strong night shooting the ball as a team. Houston ended the game going 29-of-57 from the field for 50.9%.

Houston returns to the court on Saturday afternoon against Cincinnati. The game will tip off at 1:15 p.m. inside Fertitta Center and air on CBS.

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