Memphis tops No. 14 Houston 75-61
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tyler Harris scored 15 points and Landers Nolley and Lester Quinones added 11 each to lead Memphis to a 75-61 victory over No. 14 Houston on Sunday.
Kyler Edwards led Houston (26-5) with 19 points.
The Tigers won for the 10th time in 11 games and defeated Houston for the second time this season. Memphis (19-9) beat the Cougars 69-59 last month in Houston to snap the Cougars’ 37-game home winning streak.
The Tigers finished 13-5 in the American Athletic Conference. The 13 conference wins broke the single-season record for the Tigers, who won 12 in 2013-14.
The Tigers won their third consecutive game against a ranked opponent for the first time since the 2007-08 season, when they reached the national championship game against Kansas.
The strong finish to the season may have earned Memphis an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers have not appeared in the NCAAs since 2014.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position we should be proud of,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “We understood what the mission was and our guys carried out the mission.”
The Tigers defeated a Houston team that clinched the AAC title for the third time in four seasons last week with a victory over Cincinnati.
“There’s no doubt Memphis was NCAA-tournament worthy today,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said.
The Tigers shot 48 percent, including 47 percent (7 of 15) from beyond the arc.
After surging to a 20-point halftime lead, Memphis was never challenged in the second half. The closest the Cougars got was 13 points (59-46) with 12:24 to go.
Memphis jumped to an 11-4 lead in the opening five minutes by converting five Houston turnovers into seven points. The Tigers’ lead stretched to 14 points (28-14) with eight minutes to go in the first half on Nolley’s 3-pointer and increased to 22 points (42-20) on Quinones’ 3-pointer — following Memphis’ eighth steal — with 3:56 to go.
Memphis senior guard Alex Lomax said the huge, boisterous crowd (17,946) played a role in the fast start of a wire-to-wire victory.
“I feel (Houston) got nervous when they felt the (crowd’s) energy,” said Lomax, who had five steals. “It was so loud you could feel it in your body. It can make you make a terrible pass.”
The Tigers finished with 14 steals, part of a season-worst 20 turnovers by the Cougars.
The Tigers led 49-29 at halftime after shooting 57 percent and scoring 20 points off turnovers. The Memphis bench contributed 20 points in first half, led by 13 from Harris.
Memphis: The Tigers earned their fourth Quad 1 victory. The Tigers are 4-3 in NCAA Net Quad 1 games. … The Tigers’ bench outscored Houston 29-2. … Memphis made 28 consecutive free throws against Houston (Feb. 12 in Houston and Sunday) before a late first-half miss by Lester Quinones.
Houston: The 20 turnovers were the most committed by the Cougars this season. Memphis scored 28 points off turnovers. … Fabian White was held to 11 points in 33 minutes after scoring 20 or more points in each of his previous three games. … Jamal Shead, who leads the AAC in assists at 5.9 per game, had a game-high eight assists.
Houston should remain in the Top 25 for a school-record 44th consecutive week, although the Cougars will fall from their spot at No. 14. Memphis has won 10 of 11, including two over Houston during the stretch, and may sneak into the Top 25 before the start of AAC tournament play later this week in Fort Worth, Texas.
Memphis and Houston will begin play in the AAC tournament, which starts Thursday. Houston is a lock for an NCAA tournament invitation regardless of what happens in Fort Worth. Memphis may have earned an at-large berth with Sunday’s win.