HOUSTON (AP) Marcus Sasser scored a career-high 31 points, Jamal Shead added 20 points and six rebounds, and No. 1 Houston used a huge second half to beat South Florida 83-77 on Wednesday night.

Sasser scored 25 points and Shead had 13 as the backcourt mates combined to score 38 of Houston's 46 second-half points. Sasser, a preseason All-American, finished 7 of 17 from the field, including 6 of 12 on 3-pointers. In the second half, Sasser and Shead combined to shoot 10 of 16 from the field and were 6 of 11 on 3s.

''My teammates were telling me it's time step up,'' Sasser said. ''They were trying to get me going, giving me confidence. Being a senior on the team, being a leader, I've kind of seen it all. ... When you have good teammates, they trust you with the ball and feel like you can change the game.''

Tramon Mark scored 13 points for Houston (17-1, 5-0 American Athletic Conference), which won its eighth straight game.

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson appreciated his team's grit during a less-than-stellar performance.

''We've had a lot of nights where we've played poorly and won over the years, but it's a beautiful win,'' Sampson said. ''That game was a thing of beauty. ... Get the win and go home.''

Tyler Harris scored a career-high 31 points, Russel Tchewa added 14 points and eight rebounds and Jamir Chaplin scored 14 points for the Bulls (7-10, 0-4), who lost their fourth straight.

South Florida coach Brian Gregory said Houston needed an All-American effort out of Sasser to beat the Bulls, and that's what he gave the Cougars.

''It challenged our guys a little bit in terms of the competitiveness and toughness that you have to play with,'' Gregory said. ''We're a good team. We've had second-half leads in all four games in our league. ... It's disappointing where we're at.''

Harris was 9 of 13 from the field, including 6 of 10 on 3-pointers.

Houston shot 42%, including 11 of 27 from the 3-point line. The Cougars forced South Florida into 18 turnovers and converted those into 13 points.

South Florida shot 49%, including 10 of 21 on 3-pointers.

''Every time it looked like we were about to stretch it out from 10 to 12 or 12 to 15 or something like that, they would bang a 3,'' Sampson said. ''They've been a poor 3-point shooting team and free throw (shooting team). Not tonight, but that's how upsets occur. It's nights like tonight.''

Trailing 53-48 with 14 1/2 minutes remaining, Houston went on a 20-4 run over the next 7 1/2 minutes to open up an 11-point lead on a 3-pointer by Shead. Sasser scored 13 points during the burst. The Bulls got no closer than six points the rest of the way.

Houston used a 10-0 run to open a 37-26 lead on a 3-pointer by Emanuel Sharp with three minutes left in the first half, but South Florida answered with a 10-0 run to end the half to cut the lead to one on a layup by Chaplin.


South Florida: The Bulls fell to 0-6 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams. ... South Florida did not hit a field goal for nearly 8 1/2 minutes in the second half as Houston went on its run. ... The Bulls outrebounded Houston 36-30, and South Florida had a 26-22 edge in points in the paint.

Houston: Jarace Walker, who had scored more than 20 points in two straight games, was out of the lineup with an illness. ... The 36 first-half points by the Bulls were the most Houston has allowed before halftime this season, and the 77 points allowed was also a season high. ... Houston won its 12th straight over the Bulls.


The teams combined for 45 fouls. Houston shot 22 of 32 from the free-throw line, led by Sasser, who was 11 of 14. The Bulls were 21 of 27 from the line, with Tchewa going 8 of 9.


South Florida: At East Carolina on Sunday.

Houston: At Tulane on Jan. 17.


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