Cougars hold onto Top Ranking with Victory over Cincinnati

Written by MAi'Ghen Storm | Photo credit: Oscar Herrera, SFL Staff Photographer

Houston, TX - February 27, 2024- The top-ranked Houston Cougars continued their winning streak, defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 67-59 at the Fertitta Center on Tuesday night. This victory marks the Cougars' sixth consecutive win and extends their conference lead in the Big 12 to 1.5 games over Iowa State.

"We have a chance," said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. "That's all it is - we have a chance to win the Big 12. That's our goal. We'd like to win it because we have a shot."

Senior guard L.J. Cryer led the Cougars with 22 points, including 15 in the first half. He finished the game shooting 7-of-15 from the field and 4-for-10 from three-point range. Senior forward J'Wan Roberts added 15 points for Houston.

The Cougars' defense played a crucial role in their win, forcing 19 turnovers from the Bearcats. Senior point guard Jamal Shead contributed significantly with 9 points and 11 assists, emphasizing the team's balanced offensive attack.

"L.J. had a great night," said Shead. "I tried to find him a lot. My shot's not falling, but I'm not the offense. We have four other guys out there, so just trying to get them involved and be the best I can on defense."

Cincinnati, despite a valiant effort, fell short and now holds a record of 16-12, including five losses in their last six games. Viktor Lakhin and Simas Lukosius each scored 11 points for the Bearcats, but the team struggled from beyond the arc, shooting only 5-of-19 from three-point range.

"I think our guys can really compete against anybody," said Cincinnati coach Wes Miller. "I believe they can compete with Houston's team. I think they've shown that in the two games (this season), but we've got to get a little better to get over the hump and win the game."

While Cincinnati closed the gap to six points with under a minute remaining, the Cougars secured the victory with free throws from Cryer. Coach Sampson emphasized the importance of focusing on the future, despite facing challenges.

"Win the game," Sampson said. "This is not a funeral. We are 25-3 and 12-3. This time of year, the last thing you do is evaluate."

With this win, the Cougars maintain their top ranking and remain on track for their goal of winning the Big 12 Championship.

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