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J’Wan Roberts powers No. 5 Houston past Cincinnati 67-62

CINCINNATI (AP) — J’Wan Roberts scored a game-high 20 points, including a game-sealing dunk with six seconds left, as No. 5 Houston outlasted Cincinnati 67-62 on Saturday.

Jamal Shead added 16 on 6-of-25 shooting for the Cougars (21-3, 8-3 Big 12), who won their 10th straight game against their longtime foe.

Both Houston and Cincinnati are in their first season in the Big 12 Conference after leaving the American Athletic Conference in July.

“I coached against Bob (former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins) a lot,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “One of the best teams I’ve coached against was Kenyon (Martin's) team. ... I felt like we were boys against men that night. ... Any time you play Cincinnati, it’s always going to be a tough, physical game. But we don’t mind that.”

Dan Skillings Jr. led the way with 13 points and John Newman III added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Bearcats (15-8, 4-6), who haven’t defeated Houston since February 2020.

Houston scored the game’s first six points and led by as many as 13 before Cincinnati found any rhythm offensively.

Skillings knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Bearcats to within 23-13 with 8:13 to play in the first half. The deep jumper sparked a 15-4 run by the Bearcats, and Cincinnati seized its first lead at 28-27 on a putback by Skillings with 1:49 left before halftime.

The Bearcats led 32-29 at the break.

“We’re certainly disappointed in the result,” Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said. “I thought we had a real opportunity there against a top-five team in the country. ... We squandered an opportunity, but we’ve got to learn from this one and we’ve got to bounce back quickly.”

Houston went back to its bread and butter in the second half — physicality and suffocating defense. Roberts slammed home two points to put the Cougars back up 40-38 with 14:04 to play.

Houston jumped out to an 11-1 advantage in rebounds and ended with a 41-34 edge, including a 17-9 lead on the offensive glass.

CJ Fredrick checked in for Cincinnati with 11:29 to play in the first half. It was the Kentucky and Iowa graduate transfer’s first game since suffering a hamstring injury Dec. 22. Fredrick had zero points in two minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: The Cougars again proved to be one of the truly elite defensive teams in the country. They rode that defense in the second half and avoided suffering their second loss in three games. But Houston’s relative struggles on the road this season continued. The Cougars improved to just 4-3 on the road while posting a 17-0 record everywhere else.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats have shown a great deal of toughness in their first season in the Big 12, losing six conference games by single digits. But those close losses are more than starting to pile up, as Cincinnati looks to find a path to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2019.

UP NEXT

Houston: Hosts Texas on Feb. 17. The Cougars defeated the Longhorns 76-72 in overtime on Jan. 29.

Cincinnati: Hosts No. 14 Iowa State on Tuesday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball