Houston moves up to the 7th ranked team in the country
The final regular season game for the Houston Cougars men's basketball team took place Sunday, March 7th in the Fertitta Center.
There was some controversy as the game was initially scheduled to take place in Memphis, but was moved to Houston due to a COVID-19 related issues. The contest was originally supposed to happen on Feb. 14 in Houston but was postponed due to the aforementioned COVID issues in the Memphis program.
The American Athletic Conference stated that if a game had to be postponed it would be played at the venue of the team that did not have the COVID-19 issues.
Memphis was not happy about the relocation.
"In a year full of challenges, we are greatly disappointed for our players and fans that our final home game of the season could not remain in Memphis," Memphis Director of Athletics Laird Veatch said. "This is especially sad for our senior managers and students in band, cheer and pom, who will not be able to celebrate their last experience in FedExForum.
Although unfortunate for Memphis and their fans, it did give Houston one extra home game, and a chance to have their true senior day.
Seniors Dejon Jarreau, Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham were honored during a pregame ceremony in front of a socially distanced crowd at the Fertitta Center.
There were few dry eyes on the court including head coach Kelvin Sampson who was emotional during the ceremony.
Those emotions quickly changed from bittersweet to confusion as Memphis jumped out to an early lead in the first half.
Head coach Penny Hardaway had his Tigers play trap style defense which lead to many double teams on Quentin Grimes and Jarreau, forcing other players to step up.
This strategy worked as Memphis was able to force the Cougars to make multiple turnovers early on.
Houston had a four point lead at halftime, and the game continued to be a back and forth contest until the end.
Houston was up 64-61 with nine seconds left to go in the game, and Memphis had one shot to tie the game.
Sophomore guard Lester Quinones missed a 3-pointer, but Houston couldn't secure the rebound to put the game away.
Instead, the ball bounced out to Boogie Ellis who hit his lone 3-pointer of the game with 1.7 seconds left to tie it at 64.
Coach Sampson was able to call a final timeout with 1.7 seconds left in the game.
For the final play, he drew up an inbounds play that had been tried in practice, but has never been performed in a game.
"I don't think it's ever worked," UH forward Justin Gorham said.
From the opposite side of the court, Marcus Sasser inbounded the ball via a bounce pass to Tramon Mark near center court.
Mark was double-teamed by the Houston logo and threw up a prayer.
That prayer resulted in a bank shot off of the backboard to win the game 67-64 as time expired.
"To do that on senior day for those guys, that just makes it even better," Mark said after the game on Twitter.
It was a tremendous way to end the regular season for the Cougars as they gear up and head to the AAC tournament in Fort Worth.
Before Houston headed to the locker room to celebrate, Sampson had some final words for Cougars fans.
"Never give up on your Coogs!"
MOVING UP: With this victory, Houston has moved up to the 7th ranked team in the country and are looking to secure a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
UP NEXT: March is in full swing, and the Cougars will be the No. 2 seed in the AAC tournament. They will face the winner of Tulsa and Tulane on Friday, March 12th at 6 p.m CT