CINCINNATI (AP) — Corey Davis Jr. scored a career-high 31 points Sunday, and No. 12 Houston dominated the second half for an 85-69 victory over No. 20 Cincinnati that clinched the American Athletic Conference’s regular-season title outright.
The Cougars (29-2, 16-2) knocked off the defending champs and earned their first league title since 1992 in the Southwest Conference. Their 29 regular-season wins are a school record.
Down by six early in the second half, Nate Hinton hit back-to-back 3s that started a 35-12 spurt. Davis’ back-to-back 3s put the Cougars up by 17 points and sent Cincinnati fans headed for the exits with 4:22 to go.
Last year, the Bearcats (25-6, 14-4) won the regular-season title and the AAC Tournament, beating Houston in the title game. This time, the Cougars swept the season series, winning in Cincinnati for the first time after 16 losses.
The Cougars put themselves in position for a league title by beating the Bearcats 65-58 in Houston on Feb. 10, holding Cincinnati scoreless for the final 6:11.
Jarron Cumberland scored 20 points for Cincinnati, which got outrebounded 42-28.
Cincinnati held a slim lead through most of the first half, but Davis Jr. made a jump shot, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in the last 1:33 that sent the Cougars into halftime up 37-35. They missed eight of their first nine shots in the second half, and Cincinnati pulled ahead 47-41.
Hinton hit back-to-back 3s that sparked the decisive run. The Cougars went 8 of 14 from beyond the arc in the second half while pulling away.
While Houston held its ground this week, the Bearcats’ losses this week to UCF and Houston could knock them out of the Top 25.
Houston proved it’s the best in the league, knocking off a team that had dominated them until this season. The Cougars also set a school record with 29 regular-season wins, topping the 28-win team from 1967-68.
Cincinnati fell to 0-4 against ranked teams on the season. The Bearcats opened the season at home with a loss against then-unranked Ohio State and concluded it with the loss to the Cougars.
Both teams will start tournament play Friday in the quarterfinals in Memphis, Tenn.
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