Houston treats Arizona No. 1

SAN ANTONIO — The city of Houston is just 197.1 miles from the AT&T Center, and there were times when it sounded like the whole city showed up Thursday night.

In truth, Houston and Arizona could have played their NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 matchup anywhere, and it wouldn’t have mattered. They could have played the game without fans and it wouldn’t have mattered.

“It was just electric out there,” Jamal Shead said.

Houston defeated Arizona in the South Regional semifinals 72-60.

Villanova, you have a problem.

The Cougars (32-5), an otherworldly fifth seed, punked those Wildcats (33-4) to make them the third No. 1 seed ousted from the tournament. Baylor lost last weekend and Gonzaga lost to Arkansas the previous Thursday.

Only Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats can keep Kelvin Sampson from back-to-back Final Four appearances. Villanova should better play his best game of the season in the Elite Eight on Saturday.

Arizona players react to their elimination from the NCAA tournament.
Arizona players react to their elimination from the NCAA tournament.

The Cougars, faster and hungrier and tougher and laden with prey, seemed to be the higher seed, leaving Arizona exhausted, nervous and tormented. The Cougars were so bonded, so dominant, you wondered if they could give Saint Peter’s a game.

“We’re a tough bunch,” Sampson said. “They’ve bought into the game plan and they’re not afraid of anyone.”

Benn Mathurin, who saved the Wildcats against TCU in the second round, was upset and never a factor, finishing with 15 points.

Arizona cut it to 64-58 with 2:10 after a layup by Dalen Terry (17 points), but a dagger 3 pointer from Kyler Edwards (19 points) put Arizona out of their misery.

Shead, a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Manor, Texas, refused to allow Arizona a comeback. Shead scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half.

Taze Moore, who had streamlined Illinois, committed his fourth foul with 14 minutes and a left substitution, and the Cougars never relented.

Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson reacts in the first half.
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson reacts in the first half.

“The key to beating Arizona is controlling the pace,” said Sampson.

The Cougars spent the last minute pointing at their insane fans and begging them to rain down more love. Committed to the fans. Sampson did the same when the game was over, glancing at the crowd and repeatedly banging his fist on his hand.

Mathurin shot just 1 for 7 in the first half, and Misery loved the company as the Wildcats were 7-25 overall and 34-28 down at the break (they finished the night 33.3 percent). The worst was yet to come.

“I’m proud of our fans,” said Sampson.

The feeling is mutual. Houston treats Arizona No. 1


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