Memphis is different threat to No. 11 Houston this time
The Houston Cougars, ranked 11th in the national poll and the top seed in the American Athletic Conference, may have a bit easier time taking the next step in the conference tournament.
The Cougars will face fifth-seeded Memphis in the semifinals on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET in Memphis. Why is that good news for Houston?
When the Tigers (21-12) defeated the fourth-seed, UCF, 79-55 in a quarterfinal game on Friday, they eliminated one of just two teams to defeat Houston during the regular season. The Knights defeated the Cougars on March 2 in Houston, ending the Cougars' home winning streak, then the longest in the nation, at 33.
Instead, the Cougars (30-2) will take on the Tigers, who are playing on their home court for the AAC tourney. The Cougars won the teams' only meeting, 90-77, on Jan. 6 in Houston.
But this is a different Memphis team, which has won three in a row and six of its past seven.
The Cougars destroyed Connecticut 84-45 in a quarterfinal game Friday to advance to the semis. Houston held the Huskies without a field goal for nearly 13 minutes of the second half in the runaway. The Cougars also have a three-game winning streak.
"We wanted to come out in the second half and be ultra, ultra, aggressive in everything -- defense, rebounding," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win. "When we did get the board, push it and play in transition. It was a good win, and we move on to the next one."
None of Houston's starters played more than 30 minutes in the rout, and 10 players scored for the Cougars.
Memphis put the clamps on UCF's two leading scorers, holding B.J. Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins to a combined 16 points on 4 of 18 shooting. The pair combined for just one made 3-pointer.
The Tigers got 21 points off the bench from junior Isaiah Maurice as nine players scored for Memphis.
In the first game between Houston and Memphis, the Cougars hit for 12 3-pointers, half of those coming from junior Armoni Brooks, who scored 22 points. Brooks was one of five Cougars to finish in double figures.
Memphis got a game-high 25 points senior guard Kareem Brewton Jr., who shot 10-for-13 and 4-for-6 from the 3-point line. The rest of the team, however, shot just 4-for-17 from long range.
In a sign of what could play out Saturday, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway was concerned about the Tigers' toughness after that early January loss.
"To me, it's time for everyone to wake up and understand that if we are going to make the NCAA Tournament, we are going to have to beat teams like Houston," Hardaway said after that game.
"We are going to have to be more physical; we are going to have to hit first; and we have to put everything else that we are going through aside."
Memphis outrebounded UCF 41-30 on Friday.
Memphis leading scorer Jeremiah Martin shot just 1-for-6 from the floor against UCF but made 11 of 12 free throws to finish with 13 points.
Houston leading scorer Corey Davis Jr. had it all going against UConn on Friday, scoring 22 points. Five of his six field goals came from deep.
--Field Level MediaHome