Houston's Rob Gray, Jr., left, looks to pass around Connecticut's Rodney Purvis, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Storrs, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill
February 28, 2016

STORRS, Conn. (AP) Houston forward Devonta Pollard says the Cougars are treating every game from this point forward as a must win.

Guard Damyean Dotson scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as Houston improved its NCAA resume Sunday with a 75-68 win over UConn.

Pollard added 17 points for the Cougars (21-9, 11-6 American Athletic), who have won five of their last six games.

''Every game from now on out is a tournament game, that's how we're looking at,'' Pollard said. ''I think we're a tournament team, because we won't stop fighting. We won't go away.''

Daniel Hamilton had 20 points and seven rebounds for UConn (20-9, 10-6), which had won three of four coming in.

The Huskies led by as many as nine points in the first half. But the Cougars used an 8-0 run at the end of the half to cut the lead to a point and went up by as many as seven in the second half.

Houston took the lead for good on a free throw by Ronnie Johnson with 3:15 to play. A 3-pointer from the right wing by Dotson with 1:08 left extended the lead to 72-66 and the Cougars held on.

''I just looked at the (shot) clock and there was four seconds left and I couldn't pass it, so I just put it up and it went in,'' he said.

Houston hit its last five shots. UConn missed seven of its last nine.

Donald Knowles and Ronnie Johnson each chipped in with 10 points for the Cougars, who have won six conference road games this season.

''There is a believability that has to go on within the confines of your team to win on the road, and I think that is one of the things we have,'' said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson.

A Pollard floater over 7-foot center Amida Brimah gave Houston its first lead since 2-0 at 39-37 early in the second half, part of a 9-0 run that saw the Cougars take a seven-point lead.

A lob pass from Gibbs to Brimah brought the Huskies back to within one at 51-50 and brought the crowd back into the game.

The teams went back and forth from there.

UConn opened the game on an 8-2 run thanks in part to three early rebounds from Brimah, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

A tomahawk dunk by Rodney Purvis off a Houston turnover brought the crowd into the game and gave UConn a 24-15 lead.

''Coach called timeout and said stay within yourself, play, make the right pass, be unselfish and just play how we know how to play,'' Dotson said.

The Cougars responded by scoring the next five to get back to within four after a layup by Rod Gray Jr. The sophomore guard came into the game as the Cougar's leading scorer, averaging 17.1 points off the bench. But he is still recovering from an ankle sprain and was held to just two points in 16 minutes.

The Huskies had several opportunities to extend the lead to double digits, but would miss a foul shot, or turn the ball over.

UConn gave back a Houston turnover when Daniel Hamilton's long pass on a fast-break was intercepted and Dotson turned a missed 3-pointer by Ronnie Johnson into a highlight reel dunk. Dotson had 10 of his points before halftime and the Cougars trailed just 33-32.

''It just comes down to toughness and I'm going to stop my man,'' UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. ''That's pretty much what it comes down to. And the lack of effort that we showed out here is very disappointing.''

The teams came into the game with identical records, but UConn had an RPI of 42, while Houston's was 88, making the game a must-win for the Cougars, who have won eight more games than a year ago.

The teams split the season series. The Huskies won 69-57 in Houston last month.

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TIP-INS:

Houston: Galen Robinson Jr.'s three assists give him 101 for the season. He's just the sixth freshman in Houston history to reach that milestone, and the first since Desmond Wade had 113 in 2008-09.

UConn: It was the Huskies first loss on campus this season. UConn came into the game 7-0 at Gampel Pavilion and 5-2 in Hartford at the XL Center. They have one home game, at Gampel next Saturday against UCF before the conference tournament.

UP NEXT:

Houston: The Cougars close the regular season at home on Thursday against Cincinnati.

UConn: The Huskies visit No. 24 SMU on Thursday.

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