The Memphis Tigers Men’s Basketball Team win their first AAC Championship and their first conference championship since the 2013 season. The championship marks the first in Penny Hardaway’s coaching career.
The win gives Memphis a guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament.
It was electric in Fort Worth from both Houston & Memphis as it was highly competitive on both sides of the ball. A great deal of animosity between these two teams as they met in last year's title game. A game that saw Houston win convincingly.
Memphis also seek revenge as they were swept in the regular season by Houston in two close matchups.
Houston would play this game without the AAC Player of the Year Marcus Sasser, who suffered a groin injury in the semifinal matchup versus Cincinnati.
It was all Memphis at the beginning of the half as they came locked in on both ends of the court, playing hounding defense while also scoring in several ways from 3 and second-chance points.
Memphis played full-court pressure and double teams on the defensive end, causing a lot of deflections and turnovers.
Memphis started out hot in the first half scoring 62 percent from the field and 57 percent from the 3-point line. Memphis also shot perfectly from the free-throw line as they went 6-6.
Meanwhile, Houston started out slow on offense as they shot 30 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3.
Houston threw everything they had at Senior guard Kendric Davis, but there was nothing they could do to stop him.
They played a lot of zone defense, but Davis was just splitting their defense and getting straight to the basket. Davis took over the first half as he scored 20 points before the break.
Memphis went into halftime with a 15-point lead with a score of 46-31. Memphis gave Houston their largest halftime deficit this season.
Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said, “We're trying to play as fast as we can. We got to make them run. Kendric is in kill mode right now.”
You could tell that Houston missed the American Conference Player of the Year Marcus Sasser. “His absence is no excuse our lack of defensive intensity is on us in the first half,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson.
One player that Houston could not get going in the first half was Jamal Shead. Shead shot 1-7 from the field and 0-3 from 3.
Many analysts believed that Shead would have to step up this game for Houston to win the title.
As the second half started, Houston continued to try and chip at the Memphis lead. Houston would go on a 19-9 run to cut the Memphis lead to 5.
Jamal Shead would begin to heat up for the Cougars at a time when they needed him. Shead started out aggressive coming out of halftime pulling up for 3 over Alex Lomax and scoring 10 second-half points.
Memphis, however, would continue to stick to their game plan of playing elite defense and running in transition. That would give Memphis the opportunity to push the lead back up to 15.
Down the stretch, Memphis guard Alex Lomax continued to play Shead full court. Lomax would come up clutch with a steal that turned into an and-1 layup for Memphis.
With less than three minutes left, Kendric Davis would put the game away with a layup to keep Memphis’ lead at 12.
The game became a free throw game for Memphis as Deandre Williams missed both his free throws and Damaria Franklin split his free throws. Davis would seal the game for Memphis with a floater as they clinched the title with a 75-65 win.
The player of the game was Kendric Davis. Davis scored 31 points, shooting 48 percent from the field and 50 percent from three.
Davis would immediately fall to the floor with emotions as he finally gets his chance to play in the NCAA tournament.
Coach Hardaway and Alex Lomax have been with each other since Lomax was in the sixth grade at East High School. Their emotions would be captured deeply as they finally reached that major milestone.
Memphis sits as an 8th seed in the East Region as they will face 9th-seeded Florida Atlantic on March 17th in Colombus, Ohio.
Time and program details are to be determined.