MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)Jamal Shead scored 16 points, including the winning basket as time ran out, and top-ranked Houston escaped a second-half rally by Memphis for a 67-65 win Sunday in the regular-season finale.
Memphis’ Kendric Davis drove to the basket with nine seconds left and tied the game at 65. Houston chose not to call time out.
Shead then maneuvered along the top of the key, created some space from defender Elijah McCadden with a step-back move, let it go from about 18 feet and saw the ball nestle through the net as the lights around the basket showed time had expired.
“I knew coach (Kelvin Sampson) wouldn’t call time out because we’ve been in that situation before and he trusts me,” Shead said, adding: “God willing, I was able to make that shot.”
Sampson said there was too much time left to call time out after Davis tied the game, noting that it also would have allowed Memphis coach Penny Hardaway to make adjustments, put in better defensive players and switch on all ball-screens.
“The difference is we had them in retreat,” Sampson said. “When you get them back on their heels, then you can get a good shot.”
Tramon Mark matched Shead’s 16 points for Houston (29-2, 17-1 American Athletic Conference), while Marcus Sasser finished with 13. Shead also had seven assists.
Davis led Memphis (23-8, 13-5) with 26 points, while Chandler Lawson added 10.
A second-half run by Memphis, capped by a Davis 3-pointer, provided the Tigers a 56-51 lead. But they couldn’t hold it, and Houston scored 10 straight points.
The matchup between the conference’s top teams came two weeks after the Cougars defeated Memphis 72-64 on Feb. 19.
The first half was physical. Officials allowed some tough play near the basket, but Memphis still benefitted at the free throw line. At one point, Memphis had attempted 12 free throws to only one for the Cougars.
The Tigers couldn’t keep pace with Houston’s 3-point shooting, and the Cougars were up 41-32 at half. Memphis made four 3s before the midway point of the second half and took its first lead, 48-47, with 13 minutes left in the game.
“I had a bad game plan in the first half, and I’ll put this on my back,” Hardaway said. “My guys fourth for me. Got back in the game. Had a chance to win. Held them to 26 points in the second half. We’ll just try to do better next time.”
Houston: The Cougars now have an 11-game winning streak. Houston already secured the top seed in the AAC Tournament, and will look for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Memphis: The Tigers entered the game with a 13-1 record at home. The Tigers, like the Cougars, already secured their spot as the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
Houston should easily maintain the No. 1 spot in the Top 25 poll with the win, coupled with losses by No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Kansas.
THEY SAID IT
Sampson was complimentary of the Memphis crowd despite the 11 a.m. local time start, reeling off the litany of other places the Cougars had played on the road this season.
“This is the most raucous,” he said of the FedExForum crowd. “I can’t imagine what they would have been like if this had been a 5 (p.m.) game. Let them get a little Beale Street in them.”
He added that with 11 a.m. tip, “some of them might have come from church.”
Houston: The AAC’s top seed gets a first-round bye before facing the winner of the game between No. 8 and No. 9 seeds on Friday.
Memphis: The No. 2 seed for the conference tournament will play the winner of the No 7. vs. No. 10 matchup on Friday.
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