SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Jamal Shead scored a career-high 21 points and Houston led throughout in a 72-60 win over top-seeded Arizona on Thursday night, moving the Cougars to a win. of a second consecutive Final Four.
While Taze Moore had early foul trouble after his 3-pointer for a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes, Shead and Kyler Edwards were both on the field most of the game for the Cougars (32-5 ). Edwards, the Texas Tech transfer who played in the 2019 National Championship Game for the Red Raiders, had 19 points with five 3-pointers.
After back-to-back quick layups from Dalen Terry Arizona were 64-58 with just over two minutes to play, Edwards settled things for Houston with a 3 from the right wing.
No. 5 seed Houston will face second-seeded Villanova in the South Region Finals on Saturday in San Antonio, about 200 miles from the UH campus.
Terry had 17 points for the Wildcats (33-4), while Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin had 15 and Christian Koloko 10.
The American Athletic Conference champion Cougars became the second former Southwest Conference team to knock out a No. 1 seed from this NCAA Tournament in hours. Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed overall, lost 74-68 to Arkansas, which went to the SEC in 1991, five years before the SWC’s final season.
These Cougars are very different from the ones coach Kelvin Sampson won the Final Four last year – their first since going three straight during the Phi Slama Jama era from 1982 to 1984.
Houston lost four starters last season, then lost Marcus Sasser, the lone returner and leading scorer who broke his left foot before Christmas. Second-year goaltender Tramon Mark also suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Arizona had one of the least experienced teams in Division I this season; according to KenPom.com, the Wildcats average 0.63 years of experience, 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 the top 20 teams.
Those 33 wins left Tommy Lloyd one shy of the most in NCAA history for a freshman coach. He took over the Wildcats after 21 seasons as Mark Few’s assistant coach at Gonzaga.
Houston extended its lead to 10 points three times before halftime.
The Wildcats missed seven of their first eight shots and trailed by double digits for the first time after the Cougars scored seven points in 57 seconds for a 14-4 lead. This quick push included Shead getting a rebound to start a quick break 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 transfer grad, had a career-high 21 points in Houston’s second-round win over Illinois, but his first 3 points were all he scored against the Wildcats. He committed his third personal foul with 9:22 remaining and played just 17 minutes in total.
Arizona was within 34-28 at halftime when Koloko made both free throws after a whistle and a replay when 0.6 seconds were reset on the clock. Sampson and the Cougars thought the half was over, and Mathurin thought he was fouled for the rebound on Koloko’s miss when the buzzer sounded, but the referees ruled a foul on the shot from Koloko after watching the replay.
When the Wildcats were down just two points early in the second period, Edwards hit a 3-pointer. Terry hit a 3 a few minutes later to bring Arizona back in a bucket, but Shead responded with another long range.
Arizona: The Wildcats needed overtime to beat TCU in the second round, but they got off to a slow start and never recovered Thursday. They shot 33% (18 of 54) and had 14 turnovers that Houston turned into 24 points.
Houston: The Cougars have appeared in six regional finals in the past. They won each time to qualify for the Final Four.
Houston and Villanova have not played since the Cougars won 79-49 on November 23, 1991. Both teams have played in the NCAA Tournament twice – Houston won in 1983 and Villanova won the 1981 tournament.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25