HOUSTON – Jarace Walker had a career-high 25 points and seven rebounds, and No. 3 Houston rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to defeat Cincinnati 75-69 on Saturday.
Walker, who scored 13 points in the second half, was 10 of 14 from the field.
“I was just feeling good tonight,” Walker said. “The ball was feeling good off my fingertips. I felt like everything was kind of falling. I feel like I still made the right plays. Just finding my teammates as well.
"I felt like I was real comfortable out there tonight, real confident as well.”
J’Wan Roberts added 14 points and six rebounds, and Jamal Shead scored 13 points for Houston (20-2, 8-1 American Athletic Conference).
“Jamal’s will to win equals his refusal to lose,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Jarace is just getting more comfortable and more confident, and you can see it in the things we do in practice.”
Houston has won at least 20 games in eight straight seasons under Sampson. The Cougars shot 57%, but were just 5 of 17 on 3-pointers.
“We executed at a really, really high level tonight,” Sampson said. “Whatever was called, we executed. The ball moved, probably got a little sticky in the first half. We had some clean looks. ... Our kids kept fighting. When you get down, you don’t give in.”
Landers Nolley II had 24 points, including si 3-pointers. Viktor Lakhin added 15 points and David DeJulius had 14 points and nine assists for Cincinnati (14-8, 5-4). The Bearcats shot 44%, including 11 of 27 on 3-pointers.
Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said Nolley missed the last two days of practice with an injury.
“He’s one of the best players in the country,” Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said of Nolley. “And not just his ability, but his approach, his toughness.
“He’s really hurt. I did not expect him to go tonight. And he finds a way to tough through it and performs like that. I think the world of him, and he’s just getting better and better. He’s a tougher kid than I think anybody has ever given him credit for.”
Trailing 60-49 with 11½ minutes remaining, the Cougars used a 20-4 run to take a five-point lead — capped by Roberts' dunk with 2:49 remaining. But the Bearcats responded with five straight points to tie it at 69 on a 3-pointer by DeJulius with 1:19 left.
Houston answered with a step-back jumper from Shead with 47 seconds to give the Cougars a two-point lead.
After Cincinnati was whistled for a shot clock violation, Shead made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to put Houston up 73-69. On the other end, Lakhin was whistled for goaltending with 5 seconds left.
“We had some failed execution,” Nolley said of the shot clock violation. “It was good defense; it was good offense. We had little things that we failed at that led to that shot clock violation.”
Cincinnati used a 16-0 run to jump out to a 19-6 lead on a 3-pointer by Jeremiah Davenport with 13 minutes remaining. It was the largest deficit for Houston this season. The Bearcats took a 43-36 lead into the half on a halfcourt 3 by Mika Adams-Woods at the buzzer.
The Bearcats struggled in the second half, shooting 30% and making just three of 15 3-point attempts.
Houston outrebounded Cincinnati 35-27 and held a 42-28 advantage in points in the paint.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats missed a chance at a marquee win. Cincinnati last beat a top 3-ranked team on March 9, 2012 (No. 2 Syracuse, 71-68).
Houston: The Cougars have not lost consecutive home games since January 2017. ... Houston has won eight straight over the Bearcats. ... Houston’s struggles from the free-throw line continued, finishing 10 of 16.
Cincinnati: Hosts Tulsa on Wednesday.
Houston: At Wichita State on Thursday.
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