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AAC Tournament: Houston upsets No. 25 SMU

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Houston pulled off an upset in the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Thursday as the Cougars held off No. 25 SMU, 68-64, during quarterfinal action in Memphis.

Houston trailed SMU, 38-29, at the half, but came surging back in the second half behind strong performances from TaShawn Thomas, Jherrod Stiggers and L.J. Rose.

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Thomas’ crucial blocked shot with under a minute left thwarted the Mustangs’ last-ditch effort to stay in the game when SMU was trailing by three and looking for a quick two to cut the Houston lead to one.

The junior forward finished 14 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four assists in a tremendous overall effort. Stiggers paced Houston with 19 points while Rose (16 points) and Danual House (11 points) also finished in double-figures for the surging Cougars.

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Houston (17-15) has now won five of its last six games and is a dangerous semifinal team in the AAC Tournament. The No. 6 seed Cougars advance to face the winner of the game between No. 7 seed Rutgers and No. 2 seed Louisville on Friday at 7:00 p.m.

SMU struggled down the stretch, as they shot 40 percent (20-for-50) from the field and missed a couple of free throws that would have cut Houston’s lead in the final minutes. Sophomore center Markus Kennedy (13 points) missed two free throws with the Mustangs trailing by three with 1:37 left and Houston scored on its ensuing offensive possession to effectively put the game away.

Junior center Cannen Cunningham led SMU with 14 points while guard Nick Russell added 10. Sophomore point guard Nic Moore struggled to an o-for-9 shooting day from the field as he finished with eight points and eight assists.

SMU (23-9) has now lost three consecutive games entering the NCAA Tournament as Larry Brown’s team has struggled since a March 1st win over Central Florida.

Ellis, Lucas lead No. 6 Kansas past No. 10 West Virginia

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) blocks a shot by West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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In the first meeting between No. 10 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas, the Mountaineers dominated in their 74-63 win in Morgantown. Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” attack forced 22 Kansas turnovers, with the Jayhawks playing far too fast and loose with the basketball while also getting out-toughed by the Mountaineers. In the rematch Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) looked far better equipped to deal with West Virginia in both of those areas, winning by the final score of 75-65.

Kansas committed 15 turnovers, with Devonte’ Graham responsible for five of them, but they did not allow West Virginia (19-4, 8-3) to use those chances to kickstart their offense. The Mountaineers scored 13 points (one fewer than Kansas, which took advantage of ten WVU miscues) off of those turnovers and did not register a single fast break points. Having to play in the half-court more than they would have liked, West Virginia could not execute at the level they did in beating Baylor Saturday.

As a result Bob Huggins’ team shot 37.3 percent from the field and 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers have shown signs of being able to win games in which they don’t force a high turnover count, but that wasn’t the case at Allen Fieldhouse.

If not for West Virginia grabbing better than 34 percent of their misses and scoring 14 second-chance points, the margin is likely even greater than the ten-point outcome due to the contract in offensive execution. Kansas pushed the ball early, getting out to an 8-0 lead, and as the game wore on the Jayhawks were much better in finding quality shot opportunities. Bill Self’s team shot 56.1 percent from the field with Perry Ellis scoring 21 points to lead five Jayhawks in double figures.

The tandem of Ellis and Landen Lucas, who grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, won the battle against a WVU front court missing the suspended Jonathan Holton. Devin Williams, who went for 17 and 12 in the first meeting, finished the rematch with a respectable 14-point, nine-rebound effort but he didn’t get much help in the post from the likes of Elijah Macon and Nathan Adrian.

After having Self question their toughness in a home win over Kansas State six days ago, the Jayhawks have responded with wins over TCU and West Virginia. Obviously it’s tough to read too much into beating the Horned Frogs, because even with that game being in Fort Worth it’s one Kansas was expected to handle with ease. The Mountaineers posed a different, and far more rigorous test, and Kansas got the job done.

As a result the Jayhawks have brought West Virginia back to the pack in the Big 12 title race, making Saturday’s game at No. 3 Oklahoma even bigger than it already was.

VIDEO: North Carolina head coach Roy Williams collapses on sideline

Roy Williams
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North Carolina head coach Roy Williams collapsed during the second half of No. 2 North Carolina’s visit to Boston College on Tuesday night:

Roy Williams has dealt with vertigo in the past; it’s not abnormal for him to collapse on the sideline during games, and given that his team is currently losing to Boston College, it’s understandable that he may have screamed himself dizzy.

He had to be helped off the floor:

It does appear that this isn’t something serious, according to a North Carolina release, that said Williams is “doing OK”.