No. 25 Houston has been focusing on the little things, such as lost possessions, missed free throws and bad decisions, during its week-long preparation for Sunday afternoon's key American Athletic Conference game against Cincinnati.
A share of first-place in the league standings will be on the line in Houston as the regular season heads into its homestretch.
The Cougars (21-7, 11-4 AAC) head home and return to the court after seven days off and on the heels of a 60-59 loss at Memphis on Feb. 22.
Caleb Mills scored 21 points, and Marcus Sasser added 18 points for the Cougars. Mills' jumper with four seconds to play hit back iron. Houston missed its last four shots.
Houston played without guard Quentin Grimes, its second-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game, who was out with was a hip pointer.
The Cougars' four conference losses have come by a combined margin of six points, with the latest coming in the defeat to the Tigers.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson used extensive video sessions this week to illustrate the team's need to take advantage of earlier chances that are just as important as the end game.
"We're not losing these games because we're missing the last shot," Sampson said. "That's naive to think that. We're making too many (mistakes). Too many times we go to the free-throw line under five minutes and go 1-for-2. That's what is hurting this team, the mental mistakes. Let's see if they can beat us. Don't give it to them."
The Bearcats travel to the Bayou City after a 67-64 win at home over Wichita State on Feb. 23. Jarron Cumberland was just 3 of 11 from the floor but made 16 free throws as part of his team-high 24 points in the victory. Zach Harvey scored a career-high eight points, and Trevon Scott added eight points and 11 boards.
Cincinnati (18-9, 11-4) had gone to overtime in each of the four games prior to the win over Wichita State, matching the NCAA record, and were a shot away against the Shockers from heading to an extra session again.
"Well, at least we didn't go to overtime," Bearcats' coach John Brannen said. "That's the first thing I told the guys when we got back to the locker room."
Late defense was the key to Cincinnati's win, which allowed the Bearcats to remain tied with Houston and Tulsa atop the league standings.
"We made it about defense this week," Brannen said after the win. "We felt we needed to play better. We just haven't been playing well, and it started with our investment, our physical and emotional investment. I felt for 25 minutes, it was as good as it's been in a month."
Cincinnati has played a school-record seven overtime games (4-3) this season. The NCAA record for overtime games in a season is eight by Western Kentucky (1978), Portland (1984) and Valparaiso (1993).
The Bearcats rallied at home to beat then-No. 21 Houston 64-62 on Feb. 1 in the season's first meeting between the two teams.
--Field Level Media