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The most recent challenge facing Houston proved stiff like several others that preceded it, yet that did not prevent the Cougars from again rising to the occasion.

After blowing a 16-point halftime lead, the Cougars held on for an 82-76 overtime road victory over the 11th-ranked Baylor Bears on Saturday that stretched their winning streak to five games and preserved their position atop the Big 12 standings. It also vaulted them to No. 1 in the country on Monday.

Houston (24-3, 11-3 Big 12) will take a one-game lead over Iowa State into its showdown with the Cincinnati Bearcats on Tuesday, seeking to extend its home-court win streak to 21 games.

What was expected to be a white-knuckle battle didn't materialize until the second half. The Cougars led 41-25 at the intermission largely by scoring 13 points off 11 Baylor turnovers. But the Bears opened the second half with a 12-0 blitz and forced overtime when Yves Missi made a layup with 4.4 seconds remaining in regulation.

After bending throughout the second half, however, the Cougars did not break in the extra session. Senior guard and Baylor transfer L.J. Cryer made six free throws in overtime en route to 15 points.

Emanuel Sharp led the Cougars with 18 points. Senior guard Jamal Shead posted a double-double (12 points, 10 assists) while senior forward J'Wan Roberts (17 points, eight rebounds) flirted with one.

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has touted the Cougars' ability to steady themselves in difficult road environments, particularly during this first season in the Big 12. He was more impressed by the positive result than concerned over the winding path the Cougars traversed to get the win.

"I don't care how the game went," Sampson said. "You can spin it, lob it, talk about it all you want. You can autopsy this thing - do it. This is a great win for us, and that's all that matters."

Cincinnati (16-11, 5-9) wasn't so resilient on the road on Saturday, falling 75-57 to TCU for its fourth loss in five games. The Bearcats split the season series with TCU and will look to earn a split with the Cougars after suffering a 67-62 home loss to Houston on Feb. 10.

Against TCU, the Bearcats surrendered a 9-0 run and the lead late in the first half and never recovered. When TCU opened the second half by making 6 of 10 field-goal attempts, Cincinnati slipped into a double-digit hole from which it did not escape.

Junior guard Day Day Thomas scored a team-high 13 points and was the only Cincinnati player to reach double figures. It was a discouraging all-around showing for a squad mired in a slump.

"I don't think anyone in our locker room is pleased with this," Bearcats coach Wes Miller said. "I have a pretty good pulse on our team. Our guys are down about how they played, as they should be because they didn't play well.

"I thought our preparation was pretty good (Friday), but we made controllable errors that by this time of year, you want to clean that stuff up."

-Field Level Media

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