LJ Cryer scored 15 points in 24 minutes of court time, but defense made the real difference in No. 3 Houston’s decisive 75-39 victory against Rice on Wednesday in a battle of rivals from the Bayou City in Houston, TX.The Cougars (9-0) led by 16 points at halftime, by 30 midway through the second half and waltzed to the finish to beat their crosstown rivals for the eighth straight time and ninth in the past 10 meetings. Houston was atop the NCAA’s initial NET rankings released Monday and played to its ranking, holding Rice to just 28.9 percent shooting from the floor and to just one field goal over the game’s final seven minutes.Emanuel Sharp added 12 points for the Cougars, with Ja’vier Francis and Damian Dunn scoring 10 each for Houston in its win.Alem Huseinovic led Rice (3-6) with 10 points. No other Owls player had more than 7 points in the loss, which snapped a two-game win streak for the visitors.The Owls led 9-8 after a 3-pointer by Mekhi Mason at the 15:12 mark of the first half. Houston responded by scoring 12 of the game’s next 14 points, with the run capped by a jumper by Terrance Arceneaux with 8:32 to play in the half while assuming a 20-11 lead.