AAC leaders clash as Memphis welcomes No. 1 Houston
No. 1 Houston travels to unranked Memphis on Sunday afternoon in the American Athletic Conference in the final regular-season game for both teams.
The contest sets the table for the AAC tournament that begins on Thursday in Fort Worth. Houston and Memphis received first-round byes, and don't start play until Friday. The result of Sunday's contest will not affect the seedings.
The Cougars (28-2, 16-1 AAC) clinched the top seed with an 83-66 home win over Wichita State on Thursday.
Jamal Shead scored a career-high 25 points in the victory, with Marcus Sasser adding 23 and Jarace Walker racking up 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Sasser's three 3-pointers in the game gave him 261 for his career and pulled him into a tie with Robert McKiver for the school's all-time record.
Houston is rolling heading into the Saturday's rematch with Memphis, having won 10 straight games while capturing the AAC title for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
"That's our first goal every year," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. "We want to win the conference, and No.2, we want to make the NCAA Tournament. Those are our two major goals. I don't take those things for granted."
The Cougars had to overcome a slow start that put them in a 22-14 hole midway through the first half. Houston led by two at halftime and took charge with a 13-3 run over the first six and a half minutes of the second half before repelling a Wichita State rally that closed the gap to four points with 11 minutes to play.
"Once we got rolling in the second half, we were good," Sampson said.
Houston made its first 16 free throws and finished 20-for-22 from the charity stripe in the win.
The Tigers (23-7, 13-4) head home after an 81-62 win over SMU in Dallas on Thursday. The victory secured the No. 2 seed in the conference tourney for Memphis, which has posted its most victories since it had 24 in the 2013-14 campaign.
Kendric Davis led the Tigers with 23 points and 10 assists with Damaria Franklin adding 15 points and DeAndre Williams tallying 13 while producing his 26th consecutive double-digit scoring outing.
Memphis has won three straight games and 11 of its past 13, with one of those losses a 72-64 setback in Houston on Feb. 19 in which Davis was out with an ankle injury. The Tigers are 13-1 on their home court this season and have defeated the Cougars eight times in the past 10 games played in Memphis.
"It's one of those games -- every time we play Houston, it's a knockdown, drag-out battle," Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. "Especially over the last three years. I think we make each other better."
With Houston heading to the Big 12 next season, Sunday's game will be the final time Memphis and Houston will square off in the regular season as members of the same conference.
--Field Level Media
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