Coogs heading to 3rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance, here's how they did it
Houston went into the American Athletic Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed because Wichita State had a higher conference winning percentage during the regular season. Even though Houston and Wichita State split the regular season series 1-1, the Shockers had the better overall record on paper to secure the No. 1 seed.
"At 14-3 this year, we felt like you could have called us regular-season champions," head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "But (AAC officials) decided before the season started how they were going to do that."
It ended up working in favor of the Houston Cougars as they played three teams they have not lost to this season.
The AAC tournament started on Friday for the Cougars as they awaited the winner between Tulsa and Tulane.
The Green Wave got the best of the Golden Hurricanes and defeated them 77-70, setting up a Friday night date with the Cougars.
Houston played Tulane twice this season winning by 21 and 23 points respectfully.
Friday night's contest was no different from their regular season meetings, as the Cougars bested the Green Wave by a score of 77-52. It was not a very close contest but DeJon Jarreau did something historic.
The senior guard finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career high 10 assists to finish with a triple double. This was the first triple double by a Houston Cougar since Bo Outlaw had one in 1993 against Texas A&M.
"The fact that it happens very seldom in college tells you how special the guys are who do get them," Sampson said. "I'm so happy for him because that's going to be a memory. His unselfishness, his toughness, those are the things that show in triple-doubles."
Their next game against Memphis proved to be their most difficult contest of the tournament.
The Tigers defeated UCF 70-62 to advance to the AAC semifinal.
Memphis and Houston played each other less than a week ago where Tramon Mark hit a last minute buzzer beater to secure a 67-64 victory for the Cougars.
The first half was all Houston as the Cougars took a 41-29 lead into halftime.
Boogie Ellis and the Tigers wouldn't give up as they fought their way back and cut the Cougars' lead to two points in the second half.
However, Houston's stellar defense was able to keep them in the game.
The Cougars forced the Tigers to commit 14 turnovers and Quentin Grimes led the way with 21 points. Justin Gorham added 15 points and Marcus Sasser contributed 14 as well.
The final was a 76-74 victory for the Cougars as Memphis struggled from the free throw line shooting only 55.6% and Houston shot 86.4% from the line.
Their final matchup was their third consecutive AAC tournament final against Cincinnati.
The Bearcats defeated SMU and Wichita State to reach their 4th consecutive AAC championship game.
Cincinnati won the previous two championships over the Cougars in 2018 and 2019. (2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 reasons.)
The 2021 AAC championship game was not a close contest by any means. Houston took a 41-27 lead at halftime and didn't look back. The final 5 minutes of the game saw coach Sampson empty his entire bench.
This title mirrored that of the Cougars and Bearcats regular-season matchup three weeks earlier, when Houston won 90-52 at home.
The largest margin of victory in AAC tournament history was when SMU beat Cincinnati by 15 points in 2017. That record has now been shattered as Houston defeated the Bearcats 91-54. (A 37 point margin.)
For the second consecutive game, Quentin Grimes was the leading scorer with 21 points and was named MVP of the AAC tournament as well.
The Cougars are off to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Just a few hours after Houston cut the nets down in Fort Worth, it was announced that the Cougars would be a No. 2 seed in the tournament and will face the Horizon League champions Cleveland State Vikings.
That game will be played Friday, March 19th at 6:15 CT on truTV.