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Monday, May 25, 2020

Men's Basketball

Cougars claim conference title with Senior Day win

Quality three-pointers, tough defense and a balanced offense led No. 12 Houston over SMU 90-79 Thursday night on Senior Day.

It was the kind of win that has happened countless times in the Cougars’ 28-2 season and the perfect one to secure the squad’s share of the American Athletic Conference regular season title. It is the first time the team has won a conference title since the Southwest Conference in 1992.

“I’m proud of our program and proud of our University. We’re pretty excited,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “A lot of people that have started to take notice don’t give a crap where we’ve come from. We can say we’re champions of the American Athletic Conference in 2019, and that is pretty special.”

After the game, players celebrated with their families and completed the timeless tradition of cutting down the net of the basket as a keepsake of the momentous victory.

The Cougars honored its seniors before the game. The previous night at Sampson’s pregame meetings at his house, he had the players tell each senior what they learned from them, what they were going to miss most and how important they were to each other. It was an emotional couple of days, Sampson said.

Sampson said senior Galen Robinson Jr. was one of the most emotional players during the day, to which Robinson agreed.

“I have no words. We started from the bottom, and now we’re ending the season as conference champions. We’ve worked so hard for this moment and we deserve it,” Robinson said.

Junior guard Armoni Brooks was 6-for-10 from the three-point line while senior Corey Davis Jr. was 4-for-11 and the team finished 12-for-29 overall. Robinson Jr. even took two three-pointers, an unusual stat for him.

After falling behind early, Houston took back control and held it for the rest of the game. The Cougars and the crowd were high in emotion all night before the cathartic victory for the team.

After fighting to become relevant in college basketball again, Houston has arrived and looks to be around for a while.

But Cincinnati could spoil a bit of Houston’s fun, as the team is just one loss back in the standings, which has not been lost on Houston.

If the Bearcats defeat the Cougars, both teams would finish co-champions of the AAC and the Cougars would have to watch the home team cut down the nets and celebrate like it did Thursday night.

“Cincinnati has the chance to do the same thing Sunday. We haven’t lost sight of that,” Sampson said.

Houston ends the season in Cincinnati at 11 a.m. Sunday, but the season is already a victory.

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