Mandatory Credit: Photo by LM Otero/AP/Shutterstock (13814419e) Houston guard Emanuel Sharp (21) passes against Memphis forward DeAndre Williams during the first half in the finals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, in Fort Worth, Texas AAC Memphis Houston Basketball, Fort Worth, United States – 12 Mar 2023
FORT WORTH — The Houston Cougars basketball team, without senior guard Marcus Sasser, tried to overcome a 20-point deficit, but it proved to be too much. Memphis defeated Houston, 75-65, in the American Athletic Conference championship game on Sunday.
A second-half rally allowed Houston to get back in the game and push the Tigers. Behind tight defense, rebounding, and shot-making, the Cougars were able to get as close as five points in the second half before Memphis shut the door completely.
Junior guard Jamal Shead played a key role in UH’s turnaround. He scored 12 points in the second half and had 16 for the game. As a team, the Cougars tracked down 22 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points in just the second half.
Houston junior forward J’Wan Roberts also put together a strong game for the Cougars. He set a new career-high with 20 rebounds. It is the first time a UH player has gotten 20 or more rebounds since TaShawn Thomas on Nov. 9, 2012.
Roberts added 12 points against the Tigers, while his 10 offensive rebounds set a new personal career high.
Freshman guard Terrance Arceneaux, who started in place of Sasser, also made impactful plays throughout the night.
He opened the afternoon by hitting his first 3-pointer from the corner, and in the second half, he tracked down an offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Shead for a 3-pointer that cut UH’s deficit to just 53-48.
The Tigers weathered the storm, and it was Memphis fifth-year guard Alex Lomax that made a big play to put this one away for Memphis. With the shock clock winding down, Lomax poked the ball away from Arceneaux and took it coast-to-coast for a layup, and a foul was called on Shead. Lomax made the free throw, which made it 68-55 in favor of the Tigers.
Houston’s first-half struggles doomed the team. The Cougars shot just 11-of-37 from the field in the opening half. Despite getting 14 offensive rebounds, UH only scored six second-chance points against Memphis.
The Tigers also exploited the Cougars with backdoor cuts and plenty of movement to get easy baskets in the first half. Houston allowed Memphis to shoot 18-of-29 from the field. Memphis fifth-year guard Kendric Davis was on fire in the first period, putting up 20 points in the first half.
Davis’ most impressive sequence came around the four-minute mark in the first half. He hit one 3-pointer, immediately stole Houston’s inbound pass, and drained another 3-pointer that made it 40-20 in favor of the Tigers.
For Houston, the attention now turns to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars are minutes away from knowing their first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament and what region they will play in. The NCAA Selection Show will air at 5 p.m. on CBS and reveal the full bracket for the 2023 NCAA Tournament.