ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Emanuel Sharp came off the bench to score 18 points and No. 3 Houston bounced back from a loss that knocked it from the top spot in the rankings, beating UCF 82-71 on Wednesday night.
Jarace Walker added 17 points, Jamal Shead had 14 points and 10 assists, and Marcus Sasser also scored 14 for the Cougars (19-2, 7-1 American Athletic Conference), who lost 56-55 at home to Temple on Sunday.
“We challenged our guys (after the loss),” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “They’ve been challenged since that game was over. Everything in basketball is a competition. Tonight we competed and when you compete you have a much better chance of success.”
Ithiel Horton scored 18 points and Taylor Hendricks had 17 for UCF (13-7, 4-4). Hendricks’ three-point play capped a 6-0 run that pulled the Knights within 67-62 with 7:02 remaining.
Horton was called for a flagrant foul with 3:19 left in the game. Sharp made two free throws to extend Houston’s lead to 74-64.
“We have to reset,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We’re going through a tough stretch right now. Tough games that we’re playing and the teams that we’re playing. We need to have a reset.”
Shead swished a contested 3-pointer to give the Cougars a 78-67 lead with 2:15 remaining and Walker sank a shot from the baseline to make it 80-67 with 1:25 left, matching Houston’s biggest lead of the game.
“We had the best player on the floor, Jamal Shead,” Sampson said. “Jamal Shead was the best player. His leadership, his toughness, gave our kids something to follow. And the fact that he’s at the point guard position makes it even more important.”
UCF took an early 8-2 lead before Houston responded with an 11-0 run. The Cougars led 38-34 at halftime.
Sampson said Sasser hurt his knee in the first half. He sat for a stretch after halftime and Sampson said the senior guard was “never right” in the second half. ... UCF guard Darius Johnson (foot) started and had nine points on 3-of-11 shooting in 32 minutes.
Houston: The Cougars controlled the paint and the pace of the game for stretches in the second half, but foul trouble kept them from pulling away until the final three minutes. ... The Cougars shot 50.9% from the floor.
UCF: The Knights could not keep up the pace in the second half and struggled handling Houston’s length on the inside. ... UCF hit just one of its final seven shots.
Houston: Hosts Cincinnati on Saturday.
UCF: Hosts Temple on Saturday.
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