Beat Down, Arizona! Cougars Upset #1 Seed Wildcats

Houston is now 2-3 all-time vs. #1 seeds. The wins are over Louisville in 1983 and Arizona in 2022.

UH now faces #2 Villanova on Saturday. The Cougars have only played two games vs. #2 seeds in its history: they are 1-1 with a win over Mizzou in 1982 and a loss three years ago to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Jamal Shead played his most complete game in a Cougar uniform. He finished with 21 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Most impressively, he was 9/10 from the free-throw line.

Lagniappe: Since the AAC title game, Shead is 16/17 at the free-throw line when it has counted most. He’s getting to the basket, drawing contact, and knocking down his freebies.

In 17 games this year, Shead did not make a free throw. The nine makes, and 10 attempts were both career highs in the biggest game of his life (so far).

Spotlight: Head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game that “victories don’t come with asterisks. It’s not a beauty contest.”

UH’s goal was to make the Wildcats uncomfortable from the get-go. The Coogs specifically targeted Bennedict Mathurin. In Arizona’s three losses, the Pac-12 Player of the Year struggled, shooting 16/49 (32.7%). In their 33 wins, he shoots 47.0%.

As Kyler Edwards clamped him down, he went 4/14 against the Coogs (28.6%). Only once this season – a road game at Pauley Pavillion vs. UCLA – was Mathurin held under 30% when he took 14 or more shots (17 games). Edwards made everything tough for him and deserves a ton of credit.

“I think the first time you play them, they do the things they’re good at, at such a high level, that it’s hard for you to get comfortable,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in the postgame.

“They get a ton of credit. They do what they do, and they do it at a really high level. That’s why they’re consistently good.”

The Cougars played their game of the year vs. #1 Arizona / / Photo courtesy of UH Athletics

To beat a #1 team, you have to elevate your game to a new level. And boy did the Cougars do that: UH shot 46% from the field, 45% from three, and 68% at the line (12/16 in the second half). They outrebounded Arizona, despite UA being #1 in the country in total rebounds. UH had fewer turnovers and had the same number of assists, even though the Wildcats are #1 in the nation in assists. UH held them to 12 assists, their third-lowest total of the season.

The 72-60 loss was just the second time UA was held to 60 or fewer points all year. Only twice in the last 67 games, stretching to before the pandemic, has Arizona been held to less than 60. Arizona shot 33% (18/54), becoming the 24th team to shoot under 40% against UH this season.

As you might expect, the Cougars are 24-0 in those games.

Arizona’s 18 field goals are the fewest for the program in the last two seasons.

What can you say about Reggie Chaney, J’Wan Roberts, and Ramon Walker, Jr? Bench scoring has been anemic in March but those guys stepped up when Taze Moore got into early foul trouble. Before Thursday night, the UH bench had been outscored by the opponents’ bench 163-61 since March began (28 of those 61 were against Tulane in the AAC semifinals).

But in the Sweet 16, the UH bench outscored Arizona’s 15-13.

Walker played 27 minutes, took a charge from a 7-footer, he had big rebounds, a crucial steal, and even hit a big three.

UH led all but the first 34 seconds of the game.

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