HOUSTON (AP) — Houston used a balanced attack and did all the little things right on the defensive end in order to win its fourth straight game.
DeJon Jarreau had 12 points and six assists, Fabian White Jr. added 11 points, and No. 25 Houston beat South Florida 68-49 on Sunday.
Caleb Mills had 11 points, and Chris Harris Jr. finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Houston (16-4, 6-1 American) shot 42% from the field.
“I’m proud of our effort today,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Sometimes when you don’t shoot the ball well, it looks like you aren’t playing good. It could not be further from the truth. We played good today. We didn’t make a lot of shots, but we did a lot of good things.”
The Cougars held a 37-32 advantage in rebounding and had 17 second chance points. Houston outscored the Bulls 34-26 in points in the paint.
“Coach (Sampson) talks to us a lot that sometimes he feels that – of course he’s right – that sometimes we let our missed shots dictate how we play defense,” Mills said. “It shows our maturity tonight. We didn’t make a lot of shots, but we continued to defend.”
Sampson said his players were well-prepared, especially on defense.
“Our kids knew the actions, but then it comes down to executing principles,” Sampson said. “To be a good defensive team, you have to be able to adjust to what they’re doing, and that’s where scouting comes in.”
Michael Durr had eight points and six rebounds, Antun Maricevic also scored eight points and Ezacuras Dawson III and Rashun Williams each added seven points for South Florida (8-12, 1-6). The Bulls lost their fifth straight game.
“Defensively, I thought we started out really well, but we are struggling on the offensive end right now,” South Florida coach Brian Gregory said. “When you play a team coached by Kelvin, if you’re struggling offensively, you’re really putting yourself in a tough spot.”
The Bulls shot 37%, including 3 of 16 on 3-pointers.
“We had some good looks,” Gregory said. “We have to be able to finish some of those and make some of those, but you can’t just keep going to the well on your defense because what they have is a lot of versatility in their scoring. You could take a couple things away, and they could figure out another area to hurt you.”
Houston went on a 17-5 run over a seven-minute span of the first half to take a 31-21 lead on two free throws by Jarreau with 1 ½ minutes left in the half. Houston led 31-23 at the half behind eight points from Jarreau.
Houston used an 11-1 run to open up a 44-28 lead on a layup by Marcus Sasser with 12 ½ minutes left in the game. The Bulls got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
SAMPSON ON KOBE
Sampson was an assistant coach in the NBA from 2008-14, including stops in San Antonio, Milwaukee and Houston. Following Sunday’s game, Sampson opened his press conference by speaking on the impact of Kobe Bryant.
“The definition of an icon to me is somebody that influences a generation in their given sport or profession,” Sampson said. “When I was growing up as a young boy, the icons in basketball were Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell and Jerry West. They were bigger than life. For this generation, that was Kobe Bryant. It’s such a sad, sad, sad day when a life is taken so soon and has impacted so many. So we offer our prayers as helpless as that sounds to him and his family and all the people whose lives he impacted. It’s just a sad day.”
South Florida: The Bulls have not beaten a ranked opponent since defeating Louisville in 2012 and have lost their last 29 games against ranked opponents.
Houston: The Cougars won their sixth straight against South Florida. Houston struggled on 3-pointers shooting 5 of 21. The Cougars committed nine turnovers but forced 18 turnovers, which they turned into 18 points.
South Florida visits Tulane on Wednesday.
Houston travels to East Carolina on Wednesday.