The No. 2 Houston Cougars survived a late comeback attempt by Memphis, winning 72-64. J’Wan Roberts led the way for the Cougars, scoring a career-high 20 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
The intensity of the two teams’ final AAC meeting in Houston was visible immediately from the opening tip. The Cougars locked down a Kendric Davis-less Memphis team early on, forcing six turnovers in the first ten minutes.
But the Cougars were out of sync offensively, starting just 5/17 from the floor. Marcus Sasser made his first shot with just over eight minutes to go, breaking a 13-13 tie with a three just before the under-8 media timeout.
Coming out of the break, Terrance Arceneaux, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, checked in and made steals in successive possessions to stretch the lead. Sasser’s earlier three and Arceneaux’s defense sparked a 17-3 run that sent the Fertitta Center crowd into a frenzy.
UH finished the half up 32-21, thanks largely to 14 Memphis turnovers against seven made shots in the half.
The Tigers started the second half in a full-court press, looking to steal some possessions, and had some early success. Memphis clawed to within four points at the under-16 timeout but did allow several easy buckets and quickly got into foul trouble.
Tough rebounding and strong play in the paint from Roberts helped the Cougars steady themselves. J’Wan scored 10 of UH’s first 20 second-half points while grabbing five boards. A stepback three by Sasser, followed by a drive from Roberts, helped the Cougars to push the lead back to 11. It was 57-46 at the under-8 timeout.
Memphis began to creep back into it thanks to four straight UH fouls from the Cougars. The lead was seven with two minutes to play when Sasser fell on a shot attempt, giving Memphis a chance to get within one possession. But Johnathan Lawson missed an open layup, giving UH the ball back. After a timeout, UH took the shot clock down to one before missing a three.
The following Memphis possession, the Tigers’ leading scorer Deandre Williams drove into Tramon Mark and was called for an offensive foul, his fifth. Mark sank both free throws, effectively icing the game.
The Cougars won for the 25th time and improved to 13-1 in the American Conference. It is the 14th time Houston has won 25 or more games, including each of the last five full seasons (in the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season, UH went 23-8). After a midweek loss by No. 1 Alabama, the Coogs could move back up to #1 for the third time this season.
J’Wan Roberts bested his career-high in scoring, finishing with 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds. Sasser also scored 20, while Jamal Shead finished with 10 points.
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