HOUSTON - Competing in his final home game, University of Houston senior guard Rob Gray posted a game-high 30 points to lead the Cougars to an 81-71 win over UConn inside H&PE Arena on Sunday in a game presented by Maintenance Supply Headquarters.
Gray enjoyed the seventh 30-point game of his career on 10-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-5 from the 3-point line. The Forest City, N.C., native scored nine straight points late for the Cougars as they erased a second-half-deficit.
With the win, the Cougars finished the regular season with a 24-6 overall record and 14-4 mark in American Athletic Conference play, tying for second in the league with No. 11 Wichita State. The 2017-18 team became the 12th in school history to win 24+ games in a season and the first since the 1991-92 team went 25-6.
Emotions ran high for the Cougars at the start of the game as Head Coach Kelvin Sampson and his team recognized the program's four seniors. Gray, guard Wes VanBeck, forward Devin Davis and forward Nura Zanna were honored in a pregame ceremony.
The Cougars jumped out to a 22-9 lead early in the first half, but the Huskies chipped away and used a 10-2 run to close out the opening period and take a 38-37 lead into the locker room at the break, thanks to 55.2 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
The two teams went back and forth in the second half with UConn holding a 65-63 lead following a jumper from Jalen Adams with 5:31 remaining in the game.
Fortunately, Gray buried a free throw to move the Cougars to within 65-64 and, following a UConn turnover, converted an and-1 with 4:47 left to give Houston the lead for good.
Antwoine Anderson moved the Huskies back to within a point with a free throw, but Gray buried a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession for a 70-66 Houston advantage with just over three minutes remaining.
The Huskies continued to threaten and moved to within 72-69 following Christian Vital's free throw with 2:53 left, but the Cougars scored the next six points from the free throw line to ice the win.
Junior guard Corey Davis Jr. added 17 points with four 3-pointers, his 26th straight game with at least one trey, tying with Jherrod Stiggers and Kelvin Lewis for the third-longest streak in school history.
UConn guard Jalen Adams led the Huskies with 22 points on 8-14 shooting, while forward Terry Larrier added 19 points with a team-high seven rebounds. Vital finished with 11 points and four rebounds in the loss.
The Cougars will compete as the No. 3 seed at the Aarons American Athletic Conference Championship, beginning Thursday inside the Amway Center in Orlando.
Houston will face the winner of the game between No. 6 seed UCF and No. 11 seed ECU at 8 p.m. (CST) Friday. The game will be shown on ESPNU and can be heard on KPRC 950 AM.
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