HOUSTON (AP) L.J. Cryer scored 15 points, Emanuel Sharp added 12 and No. 3 Houston beat Rice 75-39 Wednesday night.

Cryer, who hit five 3-pointers, has scored in double-figures in eight straight games. Sharp had nine points in the first half, all in a 22-4 run that gave the Cougars (9-0) a 30-13 lead with five minutes remaining in the half. Houston led 34-18 at halftime.

“I mainly try to get it started on the defensive end or on the boards,” Sharp said of his offense. “That’s what the coaches tell me is the best way. If you go out there trying to get it off on the offensive end, it’s most likely not going to come. Just trying to get comfortable on defense, and with my rebounding, usually translates to my offense.”

Ja’Vier Francis and Damian Dunn each scored 10 points for Houston, which shot 47% and 8 of 22 on 3-pointers.

Houston won its 10th straight home game dating back to last season and opened 9-0 for the second straight season. The Cougars forced Rice into 21 turnovers, which they converted into 26 points and held a 43-29 advantage in rebounding.

“We’ve been working at this since June, so there shouldn’t be a certain five better players on the court that play better defense than others,” Sharp said. “That’s what our strength is this year is our depth. Just being able to sub guys in and out and having that same defensive intensity over 40 minutes is what makes us such a good defensive team.”

Houston entered leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing 50.4 points per game and were second in opponents’ field goal percentage with 34.9%.

“We’re getting better,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said of his team's defense. “Our responsibilities, execution. It’s not easy being a good defensive team. It’s not. Not all defensive teams are built equal. They’re all different.”

Alem Huseinovic scored 10 points, and Keanu Dawes added seven points for Rice (3-6). The Owls shot 29% and were 5 of 21 on 3s.

“They’re the best one,” Rice coach Scott Pera said of Houston’s defense. “They’re just so good. They’re just so connected and play so hard. It’s impressive to watch and fun to watch. It’s scary to watch on tape when you know you have to play them.”


Rice: The Owls are 9-103 against ranked opponents. Rice’s last win against a ranked team was Jan. 30, 1999, when the Owls beat No. 24 TCU 76-69. ... The 39 points were a season low, eclipsing the previous low of 56.

Houston: The Cougars have allowed fewer than 20 points in the first half in five of their nine games this season. ... Houston had a 40-16 advantage in points in the paint.


The win was Sampson’s 741st career victory, tying him with John Chaney on the NCAA winningest coaches list.


Rice: Hosts Incarnate Word on Dec. 13.

Houston: Hosts Jackson State on Saturday.

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