HOUSTON — Come cheer on the Houston Cougars men's basketball team Saturday as they take on the Villanova Wildcats in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Be at Avenida Houston for the Coogs official watch party as March Madness continues.
Admission to the watch party is free and tickets for the event can be claimed on the Houston Cougars website.
Tipoff for Saturday's game against Villanova is at 5:09 p.m. Doors open for the watch party 90 minutes before.
FULL Houston-Arizona recap
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson gritted his teeth and raised his arms before emphatically pounding his right fist into his left hand 11 times while celebrating with ecstatic Cougars fans who were not too far from home.
Another No. 1 seed is out, and Houston is one win way from playing in its second straight Final Four after leading throughout in a 72-60 victory over Arizona in an NCAA South Regional semifinal game Thursday night.
“I knew we were going to make them uncomfortable, that’s what we do,” Sampson said. “Our team, we’re a tough bunch. ... They’re not afraid of anybody.”
Jamal Shead, a 19-year-old second-year guard, scored a career-high 21 points and experienced guard Kyler Edwards had 19 points with five 3-pointers. They both played 38 minutes after Taze Moore got in early foul trouble.
“We always feel like we’re the toughest team out there and we play like that .... we can’t be scared of anybody,” Shead said. “The energy was just electric. It was awesome to have that type of crowd here.”
Consecutive layups by Dalen Terry got Arizona within 64-58 with just over two minutes left. But Edwards, the transfer from Texas Tech who played in the 2019 national championship game for the Red Raiders, settled things for Houston with a 3 from the right wing.
The No. 5 seed Cougars (32-5) play second-seeded Villanova in the South Region final on Saturday in San Antonio, about 200 miles from the Houston campus.
“It was a tough game. There’s a lot of things we could have done better to win the game,” Mathurin said. “I don’t have a lot to say.”
The American Athletic Conference champion Cougars became the second former Southwest Conference team to knock a No. 1 seed out of this NCAA Tournament in a matter of hours. Top overall seed Gonzaga lost 74-68 to Arkansas, which went to the SEC in 1991, five years before the SWC’s final season.
These Cougars are much different than the ones Sampson took the the Final Four last year — their first since going three times in a row during the Phi Slama Jama era from 1982-84.
Houston lost four starters from last season and then lost Marcus Sasser, the lone returner and leading scorer who broke his left foot before Christmas. Sophomore guard Tramon Mark had a season-ending shoulder injury before that.
Arizona had one of the least-experienced teams in Division I this season; according to KenPom.com, the Wildcats average 0.63 years of experienced, ranked 355th out of 358 teams. But they won 33 games, and two of their losses were on the road during the regular season against top-20 teams.
Those 33 wins left Tommy Lloyd one win shy of the most in NCAA history for a first-year coach. He took over the Wildcats after 21 seasons as an assistant coach for Mark Few at Gonzaga.
“I think we really built some foundational pieces this year that are really going to serve us well moving forward. Extremely proud of the guys. Extremely proud of the coaching staff,” Lloyd said. "We ran into a really good team tonight that was just a little bit too much for us.
Houston stretched its lead to 10 points three different times before halftime.
The Wildcats missed seven of their first eight shots, and trailed by double digits for the first time after Houston scored seven points in a 57-second span for a 14-4 lead. That quick spurt included Shead getting a rebound to start a fastbreak that ended with his pass to Ramon Walker Jr. in the left corner for an open 3, and a driving layup by Edwards after a turnover.
Moore, a graduate transfer, had a career-high 21 points in Houston’s second-round win over Illinois, but his early 3 to make it 5-0 Houston in the first two minutes was all he’d score against the Wildcats. He committed his third personal foul with 9:22 left and played only 17 minutes overall.
“The guy that’s been really good for us, Taze Moore, was a non-factor. ... Tonight, you know, he was in the witness protection program. I couldn’t find him. Nowhere," Sampson said. "We put him in there, we had to take him right back out.”
Full Houston-Illinois recap
The Associated Press
Taze Moore scored 21 points, Jamal Shead added 18 and Houston, a Final Four team last season, advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament with a 68-53 win Sunday over Illinois, ousted in the opening weekend for the second straight year.
The fifth-seeded Cougars (31-5), who lost their two best players to season-ending injuries, are headed home to Texas for the next round, which will be in San Antonio, about a three-hour drive from Houston.
Kyler Edwards added 15 points for Houston, a team often overlooked but making major noise again this March.
With Houston's fans chanting “Sweet 16, Sweet 16” in the final seconds, Edwards dropped one last 3-pointer and seconds later lifted Moore, another of Houston's transfers, off the floor.
For Illinois, it's another year of deep disappointment. The fourth-seeded Fighting Illini (23-10) were determined to go farther after being bumped by Loyola Chicago last year, but couldn't get past the second round again.
All-American center Kofi Cockburn did his part, scoring 19 in 38 minutes to lead Illinois. The big man spurned the NBA last year for a shot at some tournament redemption, only to come up short in what was likely his last college game.
Down by 12 in the first half, Illinois battled back and was within 56-49 after Alfonso Plummer's four-point play.
But after Shead hit a floater, Houston's Fabian White Jr. made the play of the game by racing into the backcourt and swatting the ball before it went out of bounds with his left hand to Moore for a layup.
It's been that kind of season for the Cougars, who lost Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark — two mainstays from last year's semifinal team — but are one of 16 teams still alive for a national title,
Both teams were tight in the early going, and the intense pressure seemed to squeeze the rims a little tighter, too.
Unlike Friday's game, when Houston started six of seven on 3-pointers to startle UAB, the Cougars were off the mark — in some cases, way off. Illinois was even worse, starting 1 of 9 on 3s.
The bigger issue, though, was the Illini couldn't figure out how to get the ball inside to Cockburn, who had two and three Houston players swarming on him whenever he got a touch. On one of the rare occasions the 7-footer got it cleanly, Josh Carlton grabbed his arms and was called for a Flagrant 1 foul.
Houston opened a 12-point lead, and Illinois was reeling.
That's when coach Brad Underwood turned to freshman reserve Luke Goode, who came off the bench and made a pair of 3-pointers.
Trent Frazier's nailed a 3 at the horn to pull the Illini within 30-26 at half.
UH tops UAB in March Madness opener
By the Associated Press
Kyler Edwards scored 25 points, Fabian White Jr. added 14 and Houston looked like a team capable of making another deep run in March as it opened the NCAA Tournament with an 82-68 win over UAB on Friday night.
Edwards, who played three years at Texas Tech before transferring to Houston, made six 3-pointers — the last an exclamation point in the final minute — and controlled the fast tempo.
The Cougars (30-5) advanced in the South Region and will play fourth-seeded Illinois on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16. The Fighting Illini rallied to beat Chattanooga 54-53 and avoid a second straight early-round exit.
Houston made it to the Final Four a year ago but doesn't have a single starter left from that squad, which lost to eventual champion Baylor in the semifinals. But that's hardly declawed the high-powered Cougars, who have won 10 of 11 — nine by double digits.
Coach Kelvin Sampson brought in Edwards and has two other transfer starters — Taze Moore (Cal State-Bakersfield) and Josh Carlton (Connecticut) — on a team that can dazzle on offense and play nose-to-nose defense when it needs to.