HOUSTON (AP) — Armoni Brooks pulled Houston out of another big hole.
Brooks scored all of his 15 points in the second half and No. 21 Houston overcame a sluggish first half to rally past Utah State 60-50 on Thursday night.
The Cougars fell behind by double digits for the second time in three games before rallying to remain unbeaten.
Brooks shot 5 for 10 in the second half and led the way as the Cougars (11-0) came back from a 10-point halftime deficit for their 24th consecutive home win. DeJon Jarreau had 10 points off the bench for Houston, which shot 32 percent from the field, including 39 percent in the second half.
“We came out really lackadaisical in the first half,” Brooks said. “Galen (Robinson Jr.) and Corey (Davis Jr.) are our emotional leaders, so at halftime, they told us to keep fighting and don’t get our heads down. We went out in the second half and started getting stops. Once we get stops, that’s when all of our confidence rises.”
Dwayne Brown Jr. had 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and Quinn Taylor added 14 points and nine rebounds for Utah State (9-3), which shot 37 percent from the field but was 5 for 19 in the second half. Utah State lost its 15th straight against an AP Top 25 opponent.
“That would have been a great win,” Utah State coach Craig Smith said. “We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country, and gave ourselves every opportunity to win, but in order to win, you have to eliminate losing.”
Houston opened the second half by outscoring the Aggies 29-10 over the first 12 ½ minutes to open up a 50-41 lead on Brooks’ 3-pointer. Brooks had all of his points in the run.
“The start of the second half, we gave up two offensive rebounds in the first three or four possessions, and they get five points out of that,” Smith said. “Then, they ramped up their defense. I thought they pressured us a lot more, and we got stagnant and tentative.”
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson pointed to Houston’s defense and rebounding for the rally. The Cougars outrebounded Utah State 40-35, including 14-6 on the offensive glass.
“They out-competed us (in the first half),” Sampson said. “Big difference in playing hard versus competing. I thought our kids out-competed them in the second half.”
The Aggies cut it to 52-47 on a free throw by John Knight III with 4:49 remaining, but got no closer as Houston finished the game with an 8-3 spurt.
Utah State used an 11-0 run in the first half to take a 29-16 on Taylor’s dunk with 4 minutes remaining. Utah State led 31-21 at the half as the Cougars shot a dismal 7 of 30 from the field.
“We’re down that much because we’re missing shots,” Sampson said. “Could we have been any more wide open? . We hang our hats on defense and rebounding. As long as we are doing that, I’m OK.”
Utah State: The Aggies missed an opportunity for a nice resume-building win, and fell to 16-100 all-time against AP Top 25 opponents. Utah State finished with 17 turnovers, which Houston turned into 17 points. The Aggies shot 10 of 14 from the free throw line but 4 of 20 from the 3-point line, including 1 of 10 in the second half.
Houston: The Cougars used a strong defensive effort in the second half to mount the comeback, holding the Aggies to 3-for-14 shooting during their large run and forcing six turnovers over that span. Houston shot 13 of 15 from the free throw line to help overcome sluggish shooting from the field.
IT’S BEEN A WHILE
This was the third meeting between Houston and Utah State and first since Jan. 31, 1970. Houston now holds a 2-1 advantage in the series.