No. 3 UH holds off UCF in AAC home opener
The UH men’s basketball team built on its Wednesday win over Tulsa with a hard-fought American Athletic Conference victory on Saturday, dropping UCF 71-65 in a New Year’s Eve matchup.
The matchup started out neck-and-neck in the game’s opening minutes, with both sides exchanging buckets early.
The Golden Knights took a 12-9 lead over the Cougars before UH found its footing. UH’s momentum came off a flagrant 1 foul committed by UCF that sent junior guard to the free throw line. Mark made two free throws, following it up with a three-pointer immediately after to give UH a 16-12 lead.
Houston kept its lead for the remainder of the half, powered by Mark’s consistent production and a series of runs that put the Cougars up by as many as 13 points.
Down the stretch of the opening half, though, the Golden Knights were able to apply some pressure on the Cougars both offensively and defensively, cutting the UH lead down slightly – to 8 points at the half.
Mark was the leading force behind UH’s offensive effort in the first half, scoring 17 points on an incredible 6 for 7 shooting clip. Senior guard Marcus Sasser followed behind Mark in scoring, logging 12 points on a less-efficient 5 for 12 shooting clip.
UCF opened the second half with a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead down to five points, following it with another bucket that made the matchup 39-36 and a dunk that made the deficit just one point within the first two minutes of the second half.
UCF continued to outplay the Cougars, their play including a 6-0 run that left UH trailing 46-42.
Through some gritty, defensive play, the Cougars managed to retake the lead from the Golden Knights with less than 10 minutes left in the game.
The two squads began to go back-and-forth, exchanging the lead as both sides began to regain their offensive rhythm.
UH won out at first, thanks to an outstanding series of plays from redshirt junior forward J’Wan Roberts, who scored eight straight points to put UH up 60-54. UCF responded with force though, once again forcing the Cougar offense to a standstill and pulling back to within one point.
With two minutes remaining, UH led 62-61. Two opportunities at the free throw line yielded three points and pulled UH back ahead by four with under one minute left.
Despite a final-seconds attempt to foul their way back into the game, the Golden Knights were unable to overcome the Cougar lead. UH won by a margin of 71-65.
Junior guard Tramon Mark and senior guard Marcus Sasser led the Cougars, scoring 19 and 18 points, respectively. J’Wan Roberts also had an impressive contribution, scoring 12 points and pulling down 5 rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end.
The victory moves the No. 3 Cougars to 2-0 in American Athletic Conference play and 14-1 overall. Houston’s next outing will be the Jan. 5 matchup against SMU at Fertitta Center.