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.
RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology
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.
RELATED: Conference Tournament schedules for every league
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.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.
Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.
The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.
Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.
SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.
The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.
Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.
South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.
The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.
Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.
A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.
Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.
Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.
Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.
The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.
Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.
A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.
Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.
The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.
N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.