FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kendric Davis scored 31 points, including 14 in a big run before halftime, and Memphis held on to beat short-handed No. 1 Houston 75-65 in the American Athletic Conference tournament championship game Sunday.
DeAndre Williams had 16 points and 13 rebounds for coach Penny Hardaway and the Tigers (26-8), who got the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid. They are going to March Madness for the second year in a row.
Houston (31-3) played without AAC player of the year Marcus Sasser, who strained his groin in the first half of Saturday’s semifinal game. The senior guard’s status will remain a question mark for the Cougars, who entered their final AAC game already a sure bet for their first No. 1 NCAA seed since 1983 during the Phi Slama Jama era.
The Cougars, who are moving to the Big 12 next season, beat Memphis 71-53 in last year’s AAC tournament championship game, and won both regular-season matchups this season.
J’Wan Roberts had 12 points and 20 rebounds for Houston. Jamal Shead had 15 points on 3-of-14 shooting, and Jarace Walker had 13 points before fouling out.
The Cougars trailed by 18 at halftime, but got within 55-50 with 11:03 left after Shead scored eight points in a row for them in a two-minute span. His 3-pointer capped a 12-1 run, and he made another long-range shot before two free throws, but that was the closest Houston would get.
Memphis had taken control with a 16-2 run in the first half. Davis had all but two of those points and made two 3-pointers only 9 seconds apart.
That big spurt started on a fast-break layup by Davis with just under eight minutes left. Davis made a 3, and then Alex Lomax made a backcourt steal and passed to Davis at the top of the key for another 3. By time Davis made another fast-break layup with 3:36 left, the Tigers had doubled up Houston, 40-20.
Memphis: Hardaway played in the 1992 and 1993 NCAA Tournaments in his only two seasons as a player for the Tigers, and now has taken them to as many as a coach. He has 110 wins in his five seasons as Memphis’ coach. … Memphis will make its 28th NCAA Tournament appearance.
Houston: Sasser dressed and went through some pregame warmups, but watched the entire game from the bench. … The Cougars led only at 3-2 on a 3-pointer by Terrance Arecenaux before Williams responded with a 3 for Memphis. … It was the first loss for Houston in 12 games at Dickies Arena. The Cougars had won the two AAC tournament titles there, and regular-season games each of the last three years.
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