EditorsNote: fixes typo in third graf
No. 11 Houston survived a second-half onslaught from host Memphis to secure a 61-58 victory in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament on Saturday, despite a field-goal drought that lasted the final 9:56 of the game.
The top-seeded Cougars, who will play second-seeded Cincinnati in Sunday’s title game, improved to 31-2. The fifth-seeded Tigers dropped to 21-13. The Bearcats, ranked 24th in the nation, topped sixth-seeded Wichita State 66-63 in the other semifinal.
The Cougars staved off the upset despite the drought, poor free throwing shooting and four turnovers — including two offensive fouls — over the last 4 1/2 minutes, as well as getting crushed on the boards in the final minutes.
Corey Davis’ 3-pointer with 9:56 left gave Houston its biggest lead of the game at 57-43. But that was the last field goal Houston would hit the rest of the game.
Jeremiah Martin hit his first field goal of the second half to cut Houston’s lead to 61-54 with 3:03 left, and Martin’s layup with 1:01 left made it 61-58, completing an 8-0 Memphis run. But the Tigers couldn’t connect again in a frenzied final minute.
Martin led all scorers with 23 points despite shooting just 5 of 24 from the floor. He also led the team with nine rebounds.
Davis led Houston with 17 points.
The Cougars held Memphis to 23.5 percent shooting. Houston wasn’t much better at 36.8 percent.
Houston held Memphis to 22.6 percent shooting to take a 36-26 lead into halftime.
Few shots went uncontested for the Tigers, who had four first-half shots blocked by the Cougars, two by Brison Gresham. The Tigers struggled to hit the open shots they did get, finishing the half 2 for 12 from behind the 3-point line. Memphis finished 4 of 24 from behind the arc.
Martin led all scorers with 10 in the first half, but he shot just 3 for 12.
Davis had nine points to lead Houston, which got scoring from all nine players in the first 20 minutes. Houston shot 42.9 percent from the floor, getting 22 points in the paint.
Houston’s largest lead of the first half was 13 on Cedric Alley’s layup with 2:11 remaining.
Houston outrebounded the Tigers 27-17 in the first half. The final margin was 48-47.
—Field Level Media