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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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3rd-ranked Houston comes-from-behind to Defeat Cincinnati, 75-69

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POSTED: January 29, 2023 -- 6:23 a.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX -- (Fertitta Center)

The 3rd-ranked Houston Cougars trailed by as much as 13 points Saturday afternoon; however, the Coogs clawed back to defeat the Cincinnati Bearcats 75-69 to improve to 20-2 overall and 8-1 in the American Athletic Conference.

Cincinnati (14-8, 5-4) hit Houston with sensational three-point shooting in the first half to turn a 6-3 Houston lead into a 19-6 Cincinnati lead with 13:08 to go in the first half. The Bearcats carved up Houston's defense going 5 for 5 from three with 1 layup and 1 dunk.

Houston's offense heated up a bit to inch within 8 points four times; but, Cincinnati's Jeremiah Davenport hit an open 3 pointer after one of many Cincinnati offensive rebounds. When David DeJulius scored a layup in transition, Cincinnati led Houston by 13 (32-19) once again.

Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson switched to a 4 guard, 1 big lineup consisting of freshmen Terrance Arceneaux and Emanuel Sharp, juniors Jamal Shead and J'Wan Roberts and senior Marcus Sasser. Arceneaux scored a tough bucket in the paint to begin Houston's run.

Veteran big Reggie Chaney subbed into the game for Roberts after Roberts was whistled for his 2nd foul. Minutes later, Jarace Walker replaced Chaney; but, the 1 big with 4 guard lineup remained.

"Terrance is coming along. I thought he and Emanuel played some important minutes and helped us," Coach Sampson remarked. "They held the fort down until we could get our defense and our lead together."

Jamal Shead scored 4 consecutive points before Cincinnati's Landers Nolley II nailed his 4th three-pointer of the first half to boost the Bearcats' lead to 36-25 with 3:55 remaining in the first half.

Nolley's constant movement on offense caused Houston fits to defend him; and, when Houston defended him tightly, Nolley still made tough, contested shots.

Trailing 36-25, Jarace Walker hit two three-pointers sandwiched around a three-point bucket by Emanuel Sharp to bring Houston within 4 (40-36) with 1:41 left in the opening half. Neither team scored until Cincinnati's Mika Adams-Woods hit a halfcourt three-pointer to beat the buzzer and send the Bearcats to the locker room leading 43-36 at the half.

Cincinnati made 17 for 28 field goals (60.7%) - including 8 for 12 threes (66.7%) in the first half. In addition to the red-hot shooting, Cincinnati out-rebounded Houston 15-10 and outscored Houston 9-2 in second chance points. Cincinnati's 43 first-half points were the most first-half points Houston allowed all season.

"The thing that upsets me was the rebounding numbers," Coach Sampson said. "There's nothing that defines toughness more in basketball than rebounding. That's who we are."

Houston trailed 60-49 after Landers Nolley hit his 6th three-pointer of the game. Jamal Shead split 2 free throws before knocking down a jumper and scoring a driving layup. Houston trailed 60-54 with 10:07 remaining in the second half.

On Houston's next possession, Shead was whistled for an offensive foul; and Cincinnati responded with a dunk by big man Viktor Lakhin. Jarace Walker answered and made 2 tough turnaround jumpers; then, Emanuel Sharp got fouled on a 3-point attempt. Sharp made 2 of the 3 foul shots to cut Houston's deficit to 2 (62-60) with 7:39 to go in the ball game.

Houston tied the game at 62 on a J'Wan Roberts offensive rebound and layup; but, Nolley quickly followed with a tough pull-up jumper for a 64-62 Cincinnati lead. Nolley was fouled on his basket; but, he missed the free throw. Jarace Walker sank 2 free throws to tie the game at 64.

Walker sank another turnaround jumper to put Houston on top 66-64 with 3:51 remaining. Houston's first lead since the 17:36 mark in the first half. Walker was fouled on Houston's next possession. He split the 2 free throws.

Nolley missed a game-tying three-pointer; and, Roberts finished a smooth drive and dish from Jamal Shead with a slam dunk for a 69-64 Houston lead with 2:49 to go.

Cincinnati tied the game with 5 straight points. With the shot clock winding down, Jamal Shead broke the tie with a tough step back jumper with 47 seconds left in the game.

"Jamal's will-to-win equals his refusal to lose" Coach Sampson said after the game.

Cincinnati didn't score during the closing seconds. Shead and Sasser sealed the win going 4-for-4 at the foul line.

Jarace Walker led Houston with 25 points on 10 for 14 field goal shooting. The 25 points is Walker's most points this season.

"Jarace is just getting more comfortable and confident; and, you can see it," Coach Sampson commented.

Walker added, "Honestly, I was feeling good tonight. The ball was feeling good on my fingertips; and, everything was falling. I still made the right plays and found my teammates as well. I just felt really comfortable out there."

Houston ended the game winning the rebounding battle 35-27 (25-12 in the second half). Houston shot 56.6 fg% (30 for 53) for the game. Cincinnati finished the game shooting 44.3 fg% (30.3 fg%, 10 for 33 in the second half).

Jamal Shead scored 9 of his 13 points in the second half to help Houston complete the comeback.

"We got down a couple of times; and, they answered with some daggering shots," Shead acknowledged after the game. "We stayed together and we just kept battling through it and came out on top."

NEXT: The Coogs' next game is Thursday night, February 2, on the road, against the Wichita State Shockers. Tip is set for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

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