HOUSTON (AP) — Marcus Sasser scored 19 points, J’Wan Roberts added 11 points and 14 rebounds, and No. 2 Houston held on to beat Kent State 49-44 on Saturday and give itself an opportunity to take over the No. 1 ranking.
Sasser was 8 of 8 from the free-throw line to overcome a 5-of-16 shooting performance, including 1 of 10 on 3-pointers. Houston (6-0) shot 32% from the floor and was 2 of 17 on 3s.
The Cougars' defense carried them, holding the Golden Flashes to 24% shooting, including 6 of 29 from beyond the arc. Houston outrebounded Kent State 56-33 and held a 28-18 advantage in points in the paint.
After Malique Jacobs nailed a 3-pointer with 1:05 left to give the Golden Flashes a 44-43 lead, Jamal Shead made a layup to put Houston back ahead with 48 seconds remaining. Jarace Walker blocked a layup by Sincere Carry with 34 seconds left, and Sasser made two free throws with 29 seconds remaining.
Kent State missed two 3-point attempts by Giovanni Santiago and Carry, and Sasser got the rebound with 13 seconds left. Sasser made both free throws to ice the game.
VonCameron Davis scored 14 points and Jacobs had 11 points for Kent State (5-2).
Trailing by nine, the Golden Flashes went on an 11-2 run to tie it at 41 on a 3-pointer by Voncameron Davis with three minutes left, but Sasser answered with a jumper with 1 1/2 minutes left to put Houston up two.
Kent State: The Golden Flashes built a 15-5 lead by turning defense into offense, converting eight Houston turnovers into eight points. Kent State had long shooting droughts in both halves, finishing the first half missing its last 15 shots and enduring a 1-of-18 stretch in the second half.
Houston: The Cougars started slowly, going nearly seven minutes without a field goal after a layup by Roberts 1:20 into the game. Houston scored a season-low 24 points in the first half and missed its first 11 3-pointers before Tramon Mark and Sasser hit back-to-back 3s early in the second half. The Cougars committed a season-high 23 turnovers.
After losses by No. 1 North Carolina and No. 3 Kansas this week, Houston could move to the top spot in the AP Top 25. The Cougars haven't been No. 1 since the final three polls of the 1982-83 season.