Marcus Sasser poured in a career-high 31 points that included six 3-pointers as No. 1 Houston did just enough in the second half to beat visiting South Florida in 83-77 on Wednesday in an American Athletic Conference matchup.
The Cougars (17-1, 5-0 AAC) were up by just a point at halftime and trailed by five with 14:26 to play but rallied with a 10-0 run to go up 58-53.
Any chance South Florida had to pull off the upset was likely squelched when Corey Walker Jr. was whistled for a flagrant 1 technical foul on Sasser’s drive to the basket with 7:19 remaining that turned into a six-point play and put Houston up 68-57.
After the Bulls rallied to within 74-68, Sasser’s four-point play with 53 seconds left allowed Houston to hold sway and win its eighth straight game.
Jamal Shead added 20 points for the Cougars while Tramon Mark scored 13.
Tyler Harris rang up a career-best 31 points and Russel Tchewa and Jamir Chaplin added 14 points each for South Florida (7-10, 0-4 AAC), which has dropped four consecutive games.
The Bulls made it clear early on that they were ready for the challenge against the nation’s top-ranked team, tying the game at 12-12 on a Harris 3-pointer at the 14:11 mark. South Florida went in front for the first time on a 3-pointer by Ryan Conwell with 10:20 to play in the half.
Houston was up just 27-26 before reeling off the ensuing 10 points, with the run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Emanuel Sharp, the second with 2:52 to play before halftime. But the Bulls were undaunted, finishing the half on a 10-0 run of their own to pull to within 37-36 at the break.
Harris led all scorers with 13 points before halftime. Houston was paced by Mark’s 9 points and 8 from Sharp.
The Bulls regained the lead early in the second half and were up by 51-46 at the 14:26 mark after two 3-pointers by Harris and a three-point play and a layup by Tchewa. Houston responded with a layup by Shead, eight straight points by Sasser and a pair of free throws by Ja’vier Francis to leapfrog to a 58-53 advantage.
–Field Level Media