HOUSTON (AP) L.J. Cryer scored 16 points, Jamal Shead added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists and No. 5 Houston used a staunch defensive effort to beat Central Florida 57-42 Saturday.

Cryer scored 13 first half points as Houston (16-2, 3-2 Big 12) built a 28-14 halftime lead. Cryer, who finished 6 of 14 from the field Saturday, scored 18 points on 7 of 31 shooting from the field over his previous three games. The Cougars shot 34%.

“I want L.J. to keep being aggressive,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “L.J.’s going to keep doing what he’s doing. We’re going to keep encouraging him. He’ll keep working.”

Ja’Vier Francis had 10 points and six rebounds for Houston, which has won 16 straight home games. The Cougars forced 15 turnovers, which they converted into 15 points, and owned a 24-6 advantage in points in the paint.

“The process is far more important than the result,” Sampson said. “I talk about our discipline, our communication, our help and recovery, being able to finish the possession off with a defensive rebound, winning the loose rebound battle, all those things. … Our defense keeps getting better because we keep working on it.”

Marchelus Avery had 10 points and six rebounds, and Thierno Sylla added eight points to lead UCF, which shot 16% (7 of 44), including 4 of 21 on 3-pointers. UCF (11-6, 2-3) was 3 of 21 from the field in the first half, including 0 for 15 inside the arc.

“They’re phenomenal defensively,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I’ve played against them a number of years, and I’ve seen some terrific defensive teams by Houston, but I don’t think I’ve seen one defend as well as I’ve seen this team defend for 40 minutes. They did a terrific job of taking us out of the things we wanted to do.”

The 16% shooting allowed by Houston was the lowest shooting percentage the Cougars have allowed since East Carolina shot 16% (8 of 50) on Jan. 22, 2022.

Houston jumped out to a 13-2 lead on a 3-pointer by Cryer with 11:40 remaining in the first half, but the Knights responded with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to three on a 3-pointer by Sylla with 7 ½ minutes left in the half.

The Cougars ended the half on a 15-4 spurt to take a 14-point lead on a layup by Mylik Wilson.


UCF: The Knights fell to 2-4 in Quad 1 games. … The Knights were 24 of 33 from the free throw line.

Houston: The Cougars improved to 6-2 in Quad 1 and 2 games. … The 14 first half points tied a season low for points allowed in a half. It marked the tenth time this season the Cougars have allowed fewer than 20 points in a half.


UCF: Hosts West Virginia on Tuesday.

Houston: Travels to No. 20 BYU on Tuesday.


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