|St. Louis' Josh Fisher drives around Houston's Domimic Smith during the first round at the Conference USA tournament Wednesday, March 7, 2001, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley))|
AP Sports Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Maurice Jeffers scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds as Saint Louis beat Houston 78-65 in the first round of the Conference USA tournament Wednesday.
Jason Edwin had 14 points, Marque Perry 13 and Chris Braun 10 as the seventh-seeded Billikens (17-13) won their fourth straight game.
George Williams scored 17 points, Patrick Okafor 15, Alton Ford 12 and Dominic Smith 10 to lead Houston (9-20). Okafor had 13 rebounds and Ford added 11 for the 10th-seeded Cougars, who outrebounded Saint Louis 37-32.
The Billikens advanced to take on Southern Mississippi at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Saint Louis led by five points at halftime and increased the lead to 44-38 with 15:50 remaining. A 7-0 run, capped by Jeffers' long 3-pointer, put the Billikens up 51-38 at the 14-minute mark, and they were never challenged the rest of the way.
Saint Louis shot 51 percent to Houston's 40 percent, and its bench outscored the Cougars' reserves 21-4. The Billikens were also 4-of-9 from 3-point range while the Cougars, the league's worst 3-point shooting team, missed all seven of their attempts.
Saint Louis led by as much as six, 22-16, midway through the first half. Torrence Botts' jumper put Houston up 27-26 with 4:35 to play.
Ford's bucket inside tied the game at 31 with 2:20 remaining, but Saint Louis scored the last five points of the half to take a 36-31 halftime lead.