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.
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.
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.