Jamal Shead, Houston Cougars, AAC Tournament

Will the Cougars take home its final AAC Tournament Championship, or can the Tigers keep it?

In game one of the AAC Tournament semifinals, Houston built up a lead and never relinquished it against Cincinnati. Led by Jamal Shead, his 16 points were a boost for the Cougars.

Memphis made a statement in the second game with a 40-point win over Tulane. The starters had a nice breather being taken out with five minutes left in the game. No surprise DeAndrew Williams and Kendric Davis led the Tigers in scoring. Both players are just showing up in a big way in this tournament. Williams led with 27 points, and Davis scored 20 points.

Takeaway #1: Missing Marcus?

In the first half with a little over six minutes left, Marcus Sasser went down to injury. Sasser, a real offensive weapon for Houston, grabbed the ball at the top of the key and tried to stop and change direction. He looked like he may have slipped, but he was diagnosed with a groin strain and did not return to the game. In their first matchup, Memphis played without its star player, Kendric Davis. In the second game, with Davis, the Tigers showed up and got to the free-throw line losing the game at the buzzer.

The Cougars’ well-rounded players and next-man-up mentality showed as the team’s five-point lead ballooned to as much as 25 points. Jamal Shead, J’Wan Roberts, and Jarace Walker must be patient and play smart. Emanuel Sharp must step up and show he can be a pivotal player if Sasser does sit, as this Cougar team is a lock for the NCAA Tournament.

For those counting, this is Houston’s fifth time in the AAC Tournament championship game in the past five years.

Takeaway #2: Ball handling, foul trouble, and free throws

This game will come down to the basics. Houston faced off against the Tigers twice, the first time without Kendric Davis and the second with him. In the first game, the tempo forced Memphis to have 18 turnovers, and 13 came from steals. The frustration showed as the Tigers fouled the Cougars and put them on the free-throw line for 26 attempts.

The game with Davis had a true leader. Memphis only turned the ball over 12 times, less than the Cougars. The Tigers got to the free throw line for 23 attempts flipping the script, and fell short, losing by only two.

This matchup will be a game of attrition. The Cougars must be aggressive but stay out of foul trouble. Tramon Mark and Shead got into foul trouble in the first matchup, ending the game with four a piece. With Sasser potentially out, these two will need to be careful. The second matchup switched with Walker and Sasser getting into foul trouble with four a piece.

DeAndre Williams fouled out in the first matchup and pulled in four fouls in the second. The other big man, Malcolm Dandridge, had three and four fouls in these matchups. The Tigers could fall into the same snare of fouling, and putting Houston on the line too many times would be a mistake.

This will be must-watch TV as both teams should be ready to play, and the Memphis Tigers will be looking for a guarantee. With Sasser potentially out, coach Penny Hardaway may push the issue and make sure the Tigers’ claws are sharpened to attack its injured prey.

1. Houston will face 2. Memphis on Sunday at 3:15 p.m. on ESPN.