ORLANDO, Fla. -Coming into the AAC Championship game, Houston and Cincinnati had played twice splitting the series with both teams winning on their home floor so these teams new what to expect coming into Sunday’s matchup.
The Bearcats came out strong hitting on all cylinders converting 5 of their first 7 shots including 2 three pointers that helped Cincinnati jump out to an early 12-4 lead with 15 minutes to play. Cincinnati would not be able to keep Houston quiet for long and after a Corey Davis Jr. three pointer cut the Bearcats lead to 6 halfway through the first half the Cougars would go on a 9-0 run and get the lead down to 2 trailing 22-20 with 8:39 to play in the first half. After adding to their run to 16-2 Houston had a 27-22 lead with 7:02 to play in the first half. The pace of the game would slow down and after both teams exchanged baskets down the stretch of the first half the game was tied with 2 minutes to play before halftime. Back to back threes from Rob Gray and Corey Davis Jr. gave the Cougars a 37-35 halftime lead.
Corey Davis Jr. was the leading scorer for Houston at halftime finishing the quarter 5-7 with all his shots coming from three point land, Rob Gray also added 12. The Cougars shot 52% in the half and 53% from three.
The Bearcats were led by Gary Clark who finished the half with 13 points Jacob Evans also added 10. Cincinnati shot 50% from the field and 33% from three.
The second half started very differently than the first with both teams slowing down the pace with Cincinnati grabbing the lead 3 minutes into the half 40-37. Houston would climb back on top after a fast break layup from Corey Davis Jr. which made the score 42-40 with 14 minutes left to play in the game. The pace of the game slowed when fouls started to become an issue for both teams late in the half, Houston opened up a 6 points lead with 7 minutes to play. The Bearcats would claw their way back however going on an 8-2 run to take a one-point lead into the final 3 minutes of the game.
Heading into the final minute of the game The Cougars held a three-point lead that was vanished when Bearcat forward Kyle Washington hit a three to tie the game. The following possession saw Rob Gray miss a three point attempt and Cincinnati’s Gary Clark put the Bearcats ahead by one with 4 second remaining in the game.
After the free throws Houston called a timeout to set up what they had hoped to be a game winning play. After the timeout the Cougars star guard Rob Gray had the ball in his hands, but a miscommunication between players saw Grays pass dribble out of bound with 1 second on the clock and that would be all she wrote for the Cougars who lose a heartbreaker 56-55
Houston was led by Rob Gray who finished with 17 points, Corey Davis Jr. finished with 15 points.
Cincinnati was led by AAC Tournament MVP Gary Clark who finished the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Jacob Evans finished the game with 12 points.
Houston earned a 6th seed in the NCAA tournament and will head to Wichita, Kansas for a 1st round matchup against 11th seeded San Diego State. Cincinnati secured a 2 seed and heads to Nashville, Tennessee for a matchup against 15th seeded Georgia State.