UH adversity in Memphis win a March Madness primer
Houston is in the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship game, but it came with plenty of challenges in its semifinals matchup against Memphis.
The Tigers stormed back from a double-digit deficit late in the second half and forced the Cougars into a slugfest. Both teams took turns taking big shots, and at the end of the night, it was seventh-ranked UH that came out on top.
“It was adversity,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters after the game. “Anytime you’re up 12 (and) come down (to) down four, that is a minus-16 (point differential). A lot of teams aren’t built to come back again. They just find a way to lose. I’m glad we won the game the way we did.”
The head coach enjoyed that his team was able to get another test of what games in the big tournament are known for.
The first round of the NCAA Tournament begins next Friday.
“Getting down like that and then coming back and winning the way we won it, with an offensive rebound and making our free throws,” Sampson said. “That is so March. Rebounding and making free throws. (I) couldn’t give our kids a better lesson on how to win games in March.”
The player that helped lead UH to the finish line against Memphis was junior guard Quentin Grimes, who finished with 21 points and went 5-of-8 from the 3-point line.
The Woodlands native hit two key shots from long distance in the final four minutes of the second half, both of which gave the Cougars the lead as the seconds ticked away in the game.
“I wanted the ball in that situation,” Grimes said. “I wanted to go out there and make the play. When coach has the ultimate trust in you, it just kind of, uplifts your confidence, even more, when he gives you the green light to go out there and make a play. … Those are the moments you live for.”
In addition to Grimes’ timely shots, senior forward Justin Gorham helped sealed the win with two key rebounds in the final 30 seconds of the game.
With the Cougars up by only one, the first crucial board came off a 3-pointer from Grimes that clanked on the front rim and Gorham was able to track down. That led to Memphis having to foul the Maryland native and send him to the free-throw line to extend the game. He hit both of them.
Then on the following possession, as Memphis was on offense, Gorham went to work again. This time he secured the miss from Memphis sophomore guard Landers Nolley II, which essentially iced the game.
“He’s just the heart and soul of our team,” Grimes said. “I don’t know where we would be without Justin, to be honest. It’s just what he does. He is a magnet to the ball.”
High praise from Memphis
The Cougars’ win came against a Tigers team that desperately needed to advance in order to keep its NCAA Tournament bid hopes alive.
While Memphis threw its best shot at UH, it was not enough, which highlights just how multi-dimensional Sampson’s team can be.
“(UH is) going to play hard for all 40 minutes,” Ellis said. “(The biggest challenge is) just being able to keep playing hard and boxing out. Doing the little things for 40 minutes. They’re going to crash hard and we gave up box-outs.”
Despite neither senior guard DeJon Jarreau or Grimes scoring a single point for nearly the first eight minutes of the contest, the Cougars were still able to jump out to an eight-point lead early.
Instead, the scoring came from sophomore guard Marcus Sasser, who hit two early 3-pointers, Gorham, who had seven early points, and junior forward Reggie Chaney.
It is this versatility that left Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway with only high praise for UH.
“I think their ceiling is high because their defense travels and they rebound,” Hardaway said. “There’s not going to be a lot of teams around the country that are going to be ready for that physicality of how they rebound the basketball. “