HOUSTON (AP) — J’Wan Roberts had a career-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Marcus Sasser also scored 20 points as No. 2 Houston held off Memphis 72-64 on Sunday.
Jamal Shead added 10 points for Houston (25-2, 13-1 American Athletic Conference). The Cougars shot 45% but struggled from deep, going 3 of 17 on 3-pointers.
The Cougars forced 18 turnovers, which they converted into 22 points. Houston has won seven straight games.
“The makeup of this team is winners,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “These kids know how to win. … Do they look great every night? I never thought it was a beauty contest. Last time I checked, you don’t put an asterisk beside anything. Just go win the game. Can we play better? Absolutely. That wasn’t our A-game tonight for sure.”
Elijah McCadden had 20 points and six rebounds, DeAndre Williams added 18 points and Damaria Franklin scored 10 for Memphis (20-7, 10-4). The Tigers shot 44%, including 6 of 15 on 3-pointers.
“I am encouraged because that team is going to be No. 1 in the nation tomorrow,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “I think we know that we can play with them. I think this group now has seen and been in the fire in a hostile environment against those guys, so I’m definitely encouraged.”
Memphis was without leading scorer Kendric Davis, who averages over 21 points. Davis went through warmups but was out of the lineup with an injury.
After trailing 32-21 at the half, Memphis opened the second half by shooting 5 for 7 and cutting the lead to 38-34 on a 3-pointer by Franklin with 16 minutes remaining, which capped a 6-0 run.
Houston responded with a 9-2 spurt to regain an 11-point lead at 47-36 on a layup by Roberts with 12 minutes remaining.
“Basketball is a game of runs, so I just felt like we just had to keep our composure,” Sasser said. “I feel like that was adversity during the game, and I felt like we did a good job of staying composed and handling their run and coming back and getting our run.”
The Tigers closed within 63-58 with 2:24 remaining on a layup by Williams, but that was as close as Memphis would get as Houston made nine of its last 10 free throws to put away the game.
“Not big on moral victories,” Hardaway said. “We had our opportunities right there three times with the ball down five. We didn’t seize the moment. Just got to take the good from this game and keep it moving.”
Houston used a 17-3 run over a five-minute stretch of the first half to open up a 30-16 lead on Sasser’s jumper with 3:47 left in the half. Sasser scored seven points in the run.
Memphis: The Tigers fell to 1-2 against ranked opponents this season. … Memphis missed a chance to help its NCAA Tournament resume, falling to 7-6 in Quad 1 and 2 games, including 2-3 in Quad 1 games. … Memphis outrebounded Houston 34-30.
Houston: The Cougars improved to 12-1 in Quad 1 and 2 games. … Houston shot 23 of 26 from the free throw line, including making 13 straight at one point in the second half. … The Cougars held a 38-32 advantage in points in the paint.
Following losses to No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Purdue last week, Houston could regain the top spot in the AP Top 25 for a third time this season.
Memphis: At Wichita State on Wednesday.
Houston: Hosts Tulane on Wednesday.