HOUSTON (AP)—Andre Owens made up for a subpar game with his best effort of the season.
Owens scored 27 points, including a 3-pointer for the go-ahead basket with 21 seconds left, leading Houston to a 70-67 upset over No. 17 Louisville on Wednesday night.
Owens, who was averaging nearly 18 points a game, managed only four last Wednesday in Houston’s 93-80 loss to Texas A&M.
“I had a poor game at Texas A&M and this week was the hardest I’ve ever worked,” Owens said. “Coach had gotten in my face about how I played the previous game, so I knew I had to step up. We were running the stairs all week long.”
It paid off as Owens scored 18 in the first half. Then, when Houston needed it most, Owens knew he could score the go-ahead basket.
“I told Lanny (Smith) to look for me and I’ll make it for you,” Owens said. “I wanted the ball and I knew I could make it happen. I think we’ve showed that we can beat anybody at home. After two tough road defeats and people questioning our toughness, I was so proud over what happened.”
Houston’s Rodney Hannah had 16 rebounds, five more than he had totaled all season.
“The two early tip-ins really energized me,” Hannah said. “A lot of people thought we had to get mentally tougher, but we knew we were tough enough.”
Coach Tom Penders coached Houston’s first win over a Top 25 team since beating then-No. 25 Tulsa on Dec. 4, 1996.
“It was a great step for us,” said Penders, whose 9-3 record already equals the numbers of wins at Houston last season.
“We were fresh off two road defeats and people were questioning our toughness,” he said. “Louisville is a Top 5 program no matter what the rankings, and a win tonight was big for us. We’re a young team learning a new system so this is the next step for us.”
Freshman Juan Palacios had 20 points for Louisville, which lost to Houston for the first time in nine meetings. The Cougars last win over the Cardinals was Feb. 21, 1993, but coach Rick Pitino had no excuses.
“They made big shots down the stretch,” Pitino said. “You’ve got to give them credit.”
Francisco Garcia hit a 15-foot jumper with 34 seconds remaining for a 67-65 Louisville lead. But Owens hit his 3 and Garcia was then called for a charge on the other end.
“It was a charge,” Pitino said. “We talked about it, that they were going to try to (take a charge). Blocking out and turnovers were our Achilles’ heels. We’re small and fundamentally not a good block-out team.”
Down by as many as eight in the early minutes of the second half, Louisville narrowed it to 58-57 on a 3-pointer by Palacios with 3:13 to play. Brandon Jenkins’ 3-pointer with 2:09 then tied it at 60 and two free throws by Larry O’Bannon gave the Cardinals a 62-60 lead with 2:03 to play.
Palacios hit a 3 with 1:45 left for a 65-62 lead, but Owens answered with a 3 to tie it again with 1:04 left.
Starting guard Taquan Dean, who averages 15.7 points, failed to score for Louisville, which ended a five-game win streak. He missed the Cardinals’ last game with back spasms, was bothered by them again Wednesday and played only 17 minutes—none in the second half.
After five ties and four lead changes in the first 12 minutes, Louisville went on a 7-0 run to take a 21-16 lead with 6:29 to play in the first half. The Cardinals hit five 3s in the opening 13 1/2 minutes.
Houston, which missed 22 of its first 28 shots for 21 percent shooting, stayed alive by making six steals as Louisville had nine turnovers the first 14 minutes.
The Cougars then went on a 9-3 run, capped by Owens’ 3-pointer, to take a 30-27 lead with 2:03 left in the first half.
Owens had 18 points, including the Cougars’ last seven, as Houston led 34-30 at halftime.