HOUSTON (AP) — Houston had one of its best all-around defensive efforts of the season and used it to move into sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference.
Quentin Grimes had 14 points and six rebounds, DeJon Jarreau added 12 points and seven rebounds and No. 25 Houston beat Wichita State 76-43 on Sunday.
Marcus Sasser and Caleb Mills each scored 11 points, and Nate Hinton had 10 points and nine rebounds for Houston (19-5, 9-2 AAC).
“We just came out sharp defensively,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We are not a good shooting team. … We are just not good shooters, so we have to win in other areas. Wichita State is a good program. One team was playing uphill today and the other was playing downhill. If you’re playing uphill, it’s tough, especially when you go on the road.”
“I don’t go overboard on wins or losses,” Sampson said. “There’s nothing to gloat over. They don’t give you a parade for wining your ninth conference game. You don’t get a medal for winning No. 19. For a young team, it’s just a step in the right direction.”
Dexter Dennis had 10 points and six rebounds, and Tyson Etienne and Jaime Echenique each scored seven points for Wichita State (17-6, 5-5). The Shockers have lost three straight.
“We will have to go back to the drawing board to see what we can do to try to resurrect our team and our season,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said.
Wichita State came into Houston limping after consecutive losses in the final seconds to Tulsa and Cincinnati.
“That was one of the most thorough whippings we’ve had in my career,” Marshall said. “It’s disappointing. I don’t know to explain it at this point. I can’t get anything from them, so the only thing I can point to is the two heartbreakers in a row. It deflates you, but you can’t have that carry over, especially against a team like Houston.”
The Cougars shot 50% and outrebounded Wichita State 44-30. The Shockers shot 26% and were 2 of 24 on 3-pointers.
“Just coming in with a different mindset, especially in the second half,” forward Fabian White Jr. said of Houston’s defense. “If it happens once, it’s an accident. If it happens twice, it’s a coincidence. If it happens three times, it’s a habit. It only happened once, so we have to keep moving forward and keep improving our defense.”
Houston outscored the Shockers 32-12 over a 16-minute stretch of the first half to take a 38-17 lead on a jumper by Sasser with a minute remaining. Jarreau had eight points to lead the run, and Grimes had seven points.
The Cougars led 38-18 at the half, and the Shockers never got closer than 18 in the second half.
Wichita State: The Shockers have lost five straight to Houston. The 18 first-half points were a season low for points in a half for Wichita State. It was Wichita State’s largest defeat since February 2003, when it lost by 35 to Southern Illinois.
“Houston plays so hard,” Marshall said. “Not only will they fight you and scratch and claw, maybe even go a little beyond that to win. They make shots. They make plays for one another, and in the end, they were bigger, better and wanted to win.”
Houston: The Cougars allowed a season low for points in a half. Houston had 14 assists on 29 made field goals. The Cougars had a 30-20 advantage in points in the paint and 30-12 advantage in bench points.
Jarreau returned after serving a one-game suspension on Thursday for biting Cincinnati’s Mamoudou Diarra on Feb. 1. Jarreau came off the bench after starting the previous six games before his suspension.
Wichita State travels to Central Florida on Thursday.
Houston visits South Florida on Wednesday.
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