FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Quentin Grimes scored 21 points with five 3-pointers, Marcus Sasser had 16 points and No. 7 Houston beat Cincinnati 91-54 on Sunday in the third consecutive American Athletic Conference tournament championship game between the two teams.
The Cougars (24-3) were a lock for their 22nd NCAA Tournament berth even before leading the entire game to win their first conference tournament title since 2010, when they were still in Conference USA, and five seasons before Kelvin Sampson became their coach.
DeJon Jarreau, two days after a triple-double in the quarterfinal round, hit a 3-pointer for the first basket of the game to put to Cougars ahead to stay. He finished with 10 points.
Jeremiah Davenport had 11 points, all in the first half, and Mamoudou Diarra 10 for Cincinnati (12-11), which will have its NCAA Tournament steak end at nine appearances in a row.
Sasser had 14 of his points by halftime, when Houston led 41-27. Grimes then scored 10 points in a 12-0 run soon after the break, with the 6-foot-5 junior guard bookending the 2 1/2-minute spurt with a pair of 3-pointers, and in between making a jumper and a dunk.
The Bearcats had won the previous two AAC title game matchups before last year’s tournaments were canceled because of COVID-19 after Houston had won its second consecutive AAC regular-season title. This year, Cincinnati needed a third in a row to earn the league’s automatic berth.
Houston’s 91 points were a Championship final record and the 37-point margin of victory was also a record for the final.
Grimes was named the Championship’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Jarreau and Gorham, Cincinnati’s Davenport and Memphis’ Boogie Ellis.
All of the latest information regarding the tournament can be found on Championship Central at TheAmerican.org/mbb.
Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Men’s Basketball Championship
March 11-14, 2021
Fort Worth, Texas
First Round – Thursday, March 11
Game 1 – No. 8 USF 73, No. 9 Temple 71
Game 2 – No. 10 Tulane 77, No. 7 Tulsa 70
Game 3 – No. 6 UCF 72, No. 11 ECU 62
Quarterfinals – Friday, March 12