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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Men's Basketball

Jamal Shead’s buzzer-beater lifts No. 1 UH past Memphis in regular-season finale

UH won its 11th straight game, defeating Memphis at FedEx Forum on Sunday to tie the program record for regular season wins with 29. | Anh Le/The Cougar

UH won its 11th straight game, defeating Memphis at FedEx Forum on Sunday to tie the program record for regular season wins with 29. | Anh Le/The Cougar

In a month when heroes are born, Jamal Shead got the Madness started for No. 1 Houston on Sunday afternoon in Memphis.

Tied at 65 with 8.9 seconds left, Shead drove the length of the court and looked for one of his four teammates on the court.

No one was open, so Shead took matters into his own hands, rising up just a step inside the 3-point line and hitting the buzzer-beating bucket to lift the top-ranked Cougars past Memphis 67-65- to stun a packed FedEx Forum.

“God willing, I was able to make that shot,” Shead said after the game.

With the win, UH tied its program record for regular season wins with 29 and also matched SMU for the best single-season conference record in AAC history, finishing 17-1 in league play.

The pushing and shoving started before the ball was even tipped.

Since UH and Memphis joined the American Athletic Conference in 2013, it’s been no secret that the two schools don’t like each other.

Every time they have met, it’s been a dogfight. Sunday, the final regular-season matchup between the Cougars and Tigers as conference foes, was no different.

After a Jarace Walker 3 to begin the second half put the Cougars up by 12, the Tigers stormed back with a 19-3 run. A Kendric Davis triple with 13:35 left put Memphis up 48-47, the Tigers’ first lead over UH all season as they never led in their Feb. 19 loss at Fertitta Center.

“We had so many mind-boggling turnovers,” said UH head coach Kelvin Sampson. “That’s one of the reasons that they kept coming back.”

Down 56-51, the top-ranked Cougars used a 10-0 run to retake the lead.

“Our kids have so much fight,” Sampson said. “We don’t ever give in.”

Memphis tied things back up at 65 on a Davis layup with 89 seconds remaining.

Instead of calling a timeout, Sampson chose to leave the ball in the hands of Shead, who had made a layup to put the Cougars up 65-63 less than a minute prior to Davis tying the game back up at 65.

“Me and coach have talked about it a bunch. When the game’s on the line, he wants the ball in my hands,” Shead said. “It’s a real confidence booster when your coach believes in you like that.”

The UH point guard delivered, hitting the game-winning jumper at the buzzer before being mobbed by his teammates.

“We talked to each other, we pushed each other and we came out on top,” Shead said. “We showed a lot of fight.”

Shead finished with 16 points and seven assists.

Tramon Mark set the tone with his defense early. Memphis’ second trip down the court ended in a Mark steal that he converted into two points on a fastbreak layup. The next possession, Mark blocked Memphis’ Elijah McCadden’s jumper.

Mark had nine points eight minutes into the game and finished with 16 points.

At the 14:17 mark of the first half, Marcus Sasser hit 3-pointer No. 262 of his career, breaking the tie with former Cougars guard Robert McKiver (2006-08) for the most 3s in school history. Sasser finished with 13 points.

Free throws kept UH from blowing the doors open early as Memphis went 16-of-18 from the charity stripe in the first half.

Walker scored 10 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

Davis scored a game-high 26 points.

UH improved to 11-0 in true road games, the only team in the country with a perfect record away from home.

“To win in every gym in the league, to go 9-0 on the road is a tremendous accomplishment,” Sampson said. “I think that’s kind of bigger than the win today is the fact that we went 9-0 on the road (in AAC play).”

Next up, the Cougars go for their third consecutive AAC Tournament title beginning on Friday at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth.

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