Houston’s top-ranked defense showed no mercy at Cincinnati Sunday, leading the Coogs to a 72-59 win. UH forced 17 turnovers, including 13 steals, to get the road win.
Cincinnati took an early 5-0 lead, but the Cougars forced four turnovers in the next 90 seconds and scored ten straight points to take the lead for good.
Cincinnati’s Landers Nolley II kept the Bearcats in the game, scoring 12 of the team’s first 18 points, including two straight three-pointers to tie it at the under-8 timeout. Then, after the break, Jarace Walker went wild on the national ESPN stage, scoring eight of Houston’s following 12 points, including a steal and subsequent layup to help Houston respond and take a 30-23 lead.
The half ended with the Cougars up 35-28, with the biggest difference being turnovers and scoring distribution. Out of the break, UH jumped on the Bearcats with a 15-2 run out of the locker room. They held Cincinnati without a field goal for the first eight minutes while forcing six turnovers.
“We came out with a really good mindset,” Kelvin Sampson said in the postgame. “We knew exactly how we wanted to guard their actions.”
Walker again led the charge, along with Jamal Shead, as both either scored or assisted on 13 of those 15 points.
Midway through the half, two Cougar freshmen linked up on a play emblematic of how the day went. After a missed stepback from Walker, Terrance Arceneaux picked off a lazy pass from Adams-Woods and dished it to Walker, who put down the reverse slam. Houston outscored Cincinnati 26-4 in points off turnovers and 36-20 in points off the paint.
The Bearcats did not go away though, clawing their way back to within 10 points. After a Kelvin Sampson timeout, Shead found Tramon Mark for a three in the corner, and then Marcus Sasser got a dunk off of yet another turnover to halt the Bearcat charge.
The Cougars improved to 16-1 and 4-0 in the American (and 2-0 vs. future Big 12 rivals). Jarace Walker finished with his second consecutive 20-point game, scoring 21 points on 8-14 shooting. Sasser also had a solid afternoon, with 16 points, but made his biggest impact on defense grabbing 5 steals.
UH will likely jump to #1 again in the AP Poll. It would be Houston’s first-ever time to ascend to #1 twice in the same season.