Fabian White Jr. scored 20 points and Josh Carlton added 18 as #18 Houston outslugged Memphis 71-53 on Sunday afternoon to win the American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth, Texas.
Houston, the top seed in this event and the conference’s regular-season champion, won the AAC tournament for the second straight year. The Cougars avenged a blowout loss to Memphis in the final game of the regular season and earned the AAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The third-seeded Tigers, who had a six-game winning streak snapped, won 12 of their final 14 games.
Houston (29-5) led by as many as 15 points three minutes into the second half before the Tigers slowly worked their way back into the game, cutting their deficit to 51-47 with 6:55 to play. But that’s when the Cougars reasserted themselves, reeling off the next seven points and Memphis never seriously challenged again.
Taze Moore had 11 points, Jamal Shead scored 10 and Kyler Edwards took 11 rebounds for Houston.
Jalen Duren shrugged off a wrist injury to lead the Tigers (21-10) with 14 points and 10 rebounds while DeAndre Williams added 10 points.
The Cougars ruled the first half and were buoyed by White, who was a game-time decision to play after missing all but three minutes of Saturday’s semifinal win over Tulane with a sore back.
Houston used a 10-2 run capped by Edwards’ second-chance 3-pointer to take a 15-7 lead at the 10:57 mark. The Cougars never allowed the Tigers to get closer than five points through the remainder of the half.
After Memphis clawed to within 28-22 after a layup by Chandler Lawson with 4:12 to play in the half, the Cougars scored the next eight points and took a 36-24 advantage into the break.
White led all scorers with 14 points at halftime while Duren paced Memphis with just six points.
Houston made 6 of it 14 shots from beyond the arc in the half while the Tigers were 0 for 5 on 3-pointers. The Cougars also forced eight Memphis turnovers in the half, turning those miscues into 10 points.