Memphis topples No. 1 Houston; Hardaway back to NCAA tourney

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Memphis guard Kendric Davis (3) drives to the basket against Houston guard Tramon Mark during the first half in the finals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, Sunday, March 12, 2023, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

FORT WORTH, Texas – 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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