From the opening tip on Saturday afternoon, the No. 5 Houston Cougars had UCF scrambling to find an open shot. By the final whistle, the Knights had registered the worst shooting percentage in Big 12 history and made the fewest field goals in a Division 1 basketball game this season.
The game’s early minutes were defined by defensive-focused basketball and a slow start from the field for both teams. It was not until over three minutes into the game that senior forward J’Wan Roberts scored the first points for either squad to put Houston ahead.
Both teams continued to struggle finding their shot, but the points came easier for the Cougars. A slow but steady 10-2 run put Houston in command despite shooting just four for 12 from the field.
However poor UH’s early shooting form, the Knights found easy shots impossible to find. Largely on free throws, UCF kept the game within an arm’s length, yet trailing 20-11 UCF had shot at a miserable two for 20 clip.
UCF continued to stay in the game on the strength of its free throw shooting, hitting more free throws in the first half than field goals. But as the first half winded down, the Cougars constructed a dominant push that included a scoreless four-minute stretch for the Knights.
A resounding poster from junior forward Ja’Vier Francis looked to end the first half until with seconds left, senior guard LJ Cryer forced a steal and hurled a pass to senior guard Mylik Wilson to beat the buzzer with a layup.
At half, Houston led 28-14, scoring twice as many points as its visitors. Cryer was the star on offense scoring 13 of UH’s points on five for 10 shooting, including three makes from behind the arc. Defensively senior guard Jamal Shead was Houston’s leader with three steals.
The pace of the game did not look much different from the onset of the second half. Houston continued to overcome struggles from the field with suffocating defensive play.
Francis would score UH’s first six points of the half before Houston hit a wall and went scoreless for over three minutes. A deep three-pointer from Shead as the shot clock expired ended the cold streak and also moved Houston’s advantage to a 20-point, 37-17 lead.
By this point, UCF’s shooting woes had ballooned to a new low, a measly 3 for 31 clip.
Passing the 10-minute mark in the second half, UH finally began to find some consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Already with a 20-point lead and continuing to lock down UCF’s shooting, Houston started pulling away even further from the Knights.
A few UCF shots down the stretch did away with any aspirations of holding UCF under 10% from the field but the game was long over, with the final score reading 57-42.
By the final whistle more than half of UCF’s points were from free throws, and the Knights had been held to shooting 7 for 44 from the field. The Knights also committed 15 turnovers, with Houston scoring 15 points off turnovers.
Houston shot just 33 percent from the field, though it was led by Cryer who registered 16 points on an efficient six for 14 from the field and four for 10 from behind the arc. Shead scored 10 points while also logging seven rebounds and four steals on the afternoon.
Saturday’s win kept the Cougars undefeated at Fertitta Center on the season, moving the country’s No. 5 team to 16-2 on the year in advance of a trip to Utah to face No. 20 BYU on Tuesday.