HOUSTON – Kirk Van Slyke scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half as Houston built a big early lead and held off No. 19 Central Florida 76-71 on Saturday, handing the Knights their first loss of the season.
Zamal Nixon also had 17 points for Houston (9-6, 1-1 Conference USA). Maurice McNeil scored 15 and Alandise Harris added 14.
Keith Clanton and Tom Herzog each scored 13 points for UCF (14-1, 1-1). Leading scorer Marcus Jordan, son of former NBA great Michael Jordan, was held to 10.
Strong shooting and pressure defense gave Houston control from the start as Van Slyke led the Cougars to a 22-8 lead.
On the other end, Jordan, averaging 16.7 points per game, missed his first five field goal attempts, and frustration mounted. Jordan tangled for a loose ball with Houston's Darian Thibodeaux midway through the first half and both players had to be restrained.
In the first half the Knights shot only 5 of 22 from the field, including 1 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. Houston, meanwhile, was 14 of 29 from the floor and 5 of 8 on 3s. As a result, the Cougars had a 36-21 lead at halftime.
The Knights returned from the locker room with more intensity on defense. Houston's lead dwindled at the start of the second half when UCF pulled within five with 13:24 remaining.
Making matters worse for Houston, Van Slyke got into foul trouble and went to the bench for most of the second half. He received a standing ovation when he returned with 3 minutes left, but moments later fouled out.
A fast-break dunk by McNeil gave the Cougars an 11-point lead with 3:16 remaining, sending the crowd into a frenzy. UCF pulled within three with 9 seconds remaining, but Houston held on.
A.J. Rompza also had 10 points for the Knights.