TAMPA, Fla. (AP)Quentin Grimes scored nine of his 22 points in the final 3:28, helping No. 20 Houston hold off South Florida 62-58 on Wednesday night.
Grimes made six straight free throws and also sank a 3-pointer that gave the Cougars (20-5, 10-2) some breathing room down the stretch in the matchup between the top two defensive teams in the American Athletic Conference.
Fabian White Jr. scored 10 points for first-place Houston, which led 45-34 before USF rallied to within 53-51. Grimes put the game away with help from DeJon Jarreau, who rebounded his own miss and layed the ball in for a 58-53 lead with 21 seconds to go.
Laquincy Rideau led USF (11-13, 4-7) with 21 points. David Collins scored 13, but missed four throws in the final minutes to hinder the bid for an upset.
The victory, combined with a 68-49 win over the Bulls at home on Jan. 26, gave Houston a sweep of the season series between the teams. USF fell to 0-30 against ranked opponents since last beating a Top 25 team in February 2012.
Houston: The Cougars have won eight of nine, with the lone setback during the stretch a two-point loss at Cincinnati on Feb. 1. They won Wednesday night without getting their usual production from Nate Hinton, who averages nearly 11 points and just over nine rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 guard was scoreless in eight first-half minutes and actually didn’t attempt a shot until his 3-pointer put the Cougars up 43-32 with 12 minutes left. Hinton finished with 3 points on 1-for-3 shooting.
South Florida: The Bulls haven’t beaten a ranked opponent since upsetting No. 19 Louisville 58-51 on Feb. 29, 2012. Wednesday’s loss stopped a three-game winning streak they put together after losing at Houston last month.
Houston’s Kelvin Sampson moved past Alden Pasche as the third-winningest coach in school history behind Guy Lewis (592) and Pat Foster (142). He’s 136-57 in six seasons with the Cougars, whose 80 victories over the past three seasons are the fourth most in the nation behind Gonzaga, Virginia and Duke. Pasche was 135-116 from 1946-56.
Houston: At SMU on Saturday
South Florida: Hosts Tulsa on Saturday.
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