Houston, a No. 5 seed in this year’s tournament, conveniently dispatched its first two opponents, No. 12-seeded University of Alabama at Birmingham and No. 4-seeded Illinois, and the Cougars seemed to handle Arizona, the South Region’s top seed, almost just as easily on Thursday night, defeating the Wildcats 72-60 in the round of 16.
Arizona became the third No. 1 seed to fall this tournament, after Gonzaga lost earlier Thursday night and Baylor was knocked out in the round of 32. The only remaining No. 1 is Kansas, which plays its round of 16 game against Providence on Friday.
Houston players slipped by Arizona defenders for simple layups. They smashed the offensive glass to make more possessions. Their athletic blocks excited their fans, who took up a sizable portion of the seats inside the AT&T Center in San Antonio, about a three-hour drive from the university’s campus.
By the end of the first half, the Cougars, had outscored Arizona in the paint 18 to 4, and held Arizona to 1 of 6 on layups.
“I thought tonight we were solid,” Houston Coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We weren’t good or really good. The guy that’s been really good for us, Taze Moore was a non-factor. He had 21 against Illinois, but tonight he was in the witness protection program. I couldn’t find him.”