No. 11 Houston opens to continue run vs. UConn
The No. 11 Houston Cougars, fresh of their first American Athletic Conference regular-season title, are poised to make a run at their first conference tournament title when they play ninth-seeded Connecticut in Friday's quarterfinals.
Tipoff is at noon ET in Memphis, Tenn.
Houston (29-2) is the top seed in the tournament and earned a first-round bye on the strength of its 16-2 conference record. The Cougars put an exclamation point on their season with a dominant 85-69 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday to clinch the top seed.
The Huskies (16-16) defeated eighth-seeded South Florida 80-73 in first-round action Thursday to advance.
Houston's only losses came in early January at Temple and on March 2 at home to UCF. The Cougars defeated UConn on the road in the teams' only meeting this year, 71-63 on Feb. 14.
Sophomore reserve DeJon Jarreau scored a game-high 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting and dished seven assists in that contest. He provided a spark for the Cougars, who had an otherwise quiet night from their leading scorers, Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks, who combined for 22 points on 7-for-18 shooting.
But Davis has been anything but quiet since that game. The senior guard has averaged 22.3 points in his last six games of the regular season, including scoring 31 points against the Bearcats on Sunday.
"Corey Davis is the best two-way player in this league, plays both ends with the same voracity," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game. "Corey's been consistently good. He never had a bad practice, never had a bad game."
The Cougars thrive on their defense, senior leadership and backcourt play. Seniors Davis (16.6 ppg) and Galen Robinson (5.1 assists per game) and the junior Brooks (13.7 ppg) lead a backcourt that thrives on dribble penetration and kick-outs for open 3-point looks. Jarreau and freshman Nate Hinton off the bench give the Cougars valuable minutes and points.
The Cougars are 10th in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to 61.6 points per game.
The Huskies, by contrast, are a young team that took it to USF on Thursday.
Christian Vital scored 25 points to lead UConn, which won the rubber match between the two teams. Jalen Adams scored 19 in the win.
The Huskies connected on 13 3-pointers, shooting 54.2 percent from behind the arc in the win. Vital led the team with seven treys. UConn held USF to just 29.2 percent shooting from long range.
Vital was UConn's leading scorer against the Cougars in their first meeting, too, connecting for 15 points in the loss.
However, UConn played that game without Adams, their leading scorer who was recovering from a knee injury. His 16.9 points per game were missed, as was his senior leadership.
"We just weren't ready for the way they were going to bring it, both ends of the court there," UConn coach Dan Hurley said after that game.
The victory over USF was UConn's second in a row, and the Huskies have won three of their past four.
--Field Level Media