Coleman’s game winner sends Cougars to C-USA semis
After encountering little resistance from East Carolina in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament, the seventh-seeded Cougars knew that Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup with Memphis would be a different story.
It didn’t matter in the end, as UH posted a 66-65 win over four-time defending C-USA champion Memphis to advance to a semifinal matchup against No. 6 seed Southern Miss at 5:30 p.m. today at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
UH (17-15) held a nine-point halftime lead but saw No. 2 seed Memphis (23-9) whittle it down and eventually take a two-point lead on Willie Kemp’s layup with 3:21 left in the second half.
The two teams traded baskets and Memphis took a 65-64 lead after another Kemp layup with 15 seconds remaining. Tigers coach Josh Pastner immediately called a timeout, allowing UH head coach Tom Penders to call one last play.
As has been the case for much of the season, Penders put the ball in the hands of the NCAA’s leading scorer, Aubrey Coleman. He didn’t disappoint, drilling a running jumper after pump-faking to force two defenders into the air with four seconds left to give the Cougars the lead for good.
Penders said he was proud of the way his team handled Memphis’ second-half rally.
“We were very fortunate to get the win,” Penders said. “We very easily could have let this one get through our hands, but Aubrey Coleman came through like the All-American that he is.”
Coleman led the way with 21 points against the Tigers, with Kelvin Lewis adding 13 points. Maurice McNeil, who returned after missing the final two regular-season games while tending to a family illness in New York, added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Cougars will now have to deal with Southern Miss, which came away with a 57-55 win at Hofheinz Pavilion on Feb 6.
The Golden Eagles come into today’s game after upsetting third-seeded UAB, 58-44, on Thursday.