Men's Basketball Sports

No. 1 UH secures outright AAC regular-season title with win over ECU

No. 1 Houston secured its second straight outright AAC regular-season title on Saturday. | Anh Le/The Cougar

No. 1 Houston secured its second straight outright AAC regular-season title on Saturday. | Anh Le/The Cougar

For the second consecutive season, the American Athletic Conference throne belongs to Houston alone.

Top-ranked UH locked up sole ownership of the AAC’s regular-season title with its ninth straight win, putting on a defensive clinic in its 76-57 victory over East Carolina on Saturday night in Greenville, North Carolina.

“Happy for our kids to be rewarded with winning a conference championship,” said UH head coach Kelvin Sampson. “That’s not easy to do.”

Marcus Sasser scored 20-plus points for the fifth straight game, finishing with 22 points.

Tramon Mark added 20 points and nine rebounds.

“Our best player tonight was Tramon Mark,” Sampson said.

This is UH’s fourth regular season AAC title, the third outright as the Cougars shared the 2019-20 crown with Cincinnati and Tulsa, in the last five seasons.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Sampson said. “Our kids know how to win. I say that a lot”

The Cougars quickly took the sold-out Williams Arena crowd out of the game, putting the clamps on the Pirates from the jump. UH held ECU without a made field goal over the final 10:56 of the first half, limiting the Pirates to just 3-of-25 from the field to take a 36-19 lead into the locker room.

UH had an early scare as Sasser, who had eight points in the game’s first six minutes, rolled his right ankle trying to get over a screen with 13:46 left in the first half. Sasser went to the locker room to get his ankle retaped and returned to the court at the 11:14 mark in the first half.

J’Wan Roberts continued his stretch of high-level play, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass, to record his fifth double-double of the season.

UH’s lead did not shrink below 14 points throughout the second half’s entirety. The Cougars built the lead up to 24 at one point.

With the win, UH improved to 10-0 on the road, the only team in the country to be undefeated away from home.

“It’s hard to be undefeated on the road,” Sampson said. “It’s hard to win on the road.”

In its final season in the AAC, UH (27-2, 15-1 AAC) has made its competition look silly with 10 double-digit wins in conference play.

With two games left in the regular season, UH has secured the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament, which begins on March 9 in Fort Worth.

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