No. 1 Houston rallies past UCF, clinches share of Big 12 title

No. 1 Houston rallies past UCF, clinches share of Big 12 title

ORLANDO, Fla. — L.J. Cryer scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half to lift No. 1 Houston to a come-from-behind 67-59 victory over UCF on Wednesday night and clinch at least a share of the regular-season Big 12 title in the Cougars’ first season in the conference.

Houston, which moved from the American Athletic Conference, has won either a conference tournament or regular-season title in six straight seasons.

The Cougars can clinch an outright conference title with a win in their last game of the regular season against No. 14 Kansas on Saturday or a loss by sixth-ranked Iowa State on Saturday at Kansas State.

“We knew the Big 12 is the best conference in college basketball,” Cougars forward J’Wan Roberts said. “Houston has been a winning program for a long time. It didn’t really matter which conference we ended up going in, once we traveled with our DNA and our toughness, I feel like we can compete with anybody in the nation.”

Houston (27-3, 14-3) led by nine points after a Cryer 3-pointer with 2:18 to play. UCF (15-14, 6-11) closed to within four with just over a minute to play, and then Cryer hit another clutch shot to pull away.

The Cougars trailed by as many as seven points and never led in the first half. They did not take their first lead until Jamal Shead drained a 3 to make it 45-42 with about 12 minutes to play in the second half.

Houston’s defense stifled UCF throughout the second half, holding the Knights to one field goal over nearly five minutes to take control of the game.

“I feel like there were some turnovers in there for sure,” UCF guard Darius Johnson said. “We were playing on the perimeter and allowing them to be comfortable on D.”

Shead finished with 16 points and eight assists. Roberts had 12 points and seven rebounds. Cryer shot 9-of-17 from the floor, including 5-of-11 on 3-pointers.

“Coach tells me to keep shooting no matter if I am making or missing,” Cryer said. “Once I got going, they did a great job putting the ball in my hands and my teammates did a great job trusting me with the ball. We went out there and did what we did.”

C.J. Walker led UCF with 15 points. Jaylin Sellers added 12 points.

The Knights shot 45.5% for the game. They held the Cougars to 37.5% shooting and 2-for-11 from 3 in the first half.

Houston forced 18 turnovers and scored 22 points off them.

UCF had just four points off 10 forced turnovers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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