With the Cougars going cold down the stretch, UH almost coughed up a double-digit halftime lead to San Diego State, but Houston prevailed, 67-65. He scored more than half of Houston's points and was the only Cougars player to even crack double figures. They lead San Diego State in every category except free throw percentage, where the Aztecs have a narrow 72.20% over the Cougars' 71.70%.
After the Coogs got the ball back, Gray answered with a three-ball of his own to put the team back up by three.
What's further celebratory about Thursday night's win is that this Houston's first tournament victory since 1984, when National Basketball Association legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were ripping opponents to shreds.
The Bulldogs trailed 64-62 with 1:48 left after squandering a 12-point lead taken early in the second half. "It's March. We had a March-type shot to win the game and it didn't go home".
The Cougars (26-7) face the Aztecs (22-10) at 6:20 p.m.
Gray answered with a dagger three-pointer of his own, but Watson threw a punch right back, sinking another three to tie the game at 65. "This is what I live for", Gray said later. But the latter of those was also the last time they won an NCAA Tournament game.
Gray added eight rebounds for the Cougars, who were coming off a one-point loss to Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference Tournament finals.
"Tonight it wasn't Phi Slama Jama", Hayes told reporters, "it was Rob Gray".
The Houston Cougars kept grinding away and things remains close.
With the win, Houston is back in Big Dance business, and the Cougars now await the victor of Thursday night's Michigan-Montana matchup.
Gray's career-best 39 points came on 12-for-25 shooting overall and 4-for-6 on three-pointers.
Gray did most of the damage, hitting an array of floaters and lay-ins before a 3 from about 30 feet gave the Cougars a 39-29 halftime lead.
McDaniels led the Aztecs with 18 points and nine rebounds while Pope doubled-doubled his way with 11/11.
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