Houston made only eight of its 26 second-half shot attempts Thursday night against San Diego State.
Rob Gray made seven of them.
Gray put up a career- and game-high 39 points, including the game-winning layup with two seconds remaining to cap off a thrilling 67-65 victory — the Cougars’ first in the NCAA tournament since 1984.
The winning bucket for Gray, a senior guard playing in his first NCAA tournament game, capped off a wild final two minutes of regulation. Houston, the No. 6 seed in the West, went into halftime with a 10-point lead. That lead grew to 13 at one point, but the No. 11 Aztecs chipped away throughout the half as UH — aside from Gray — scuffled offensively.
San Diego State finally tied the game, 62-62, on a Devin Watson 3-pointer with 1:08 to play.
But it didn’t take long for Gray to respond. Nineteen seconds later, Gray drilled a trey of his own to put Houston back ahead by three.
But once again, Watson, after struggling all game long, drilled another three to again tie the game — this time at 65 with 36 seconds to play.
With the pressure turned up, Gray would not let his team lose. Gray, who scored 23 of his team’s 28 second-half points, let the clock wind inside five seconds before attacking the basket. This time, he worked his way through the Aztecs’ defense and got a right-handed lay-in to fall to put UH back in front, 67-65.
After a long inbounds pass, SDSU’s Trey Kell subsequently got a clean look at what would have been a game-winning buzzer-beating trey, but it clanked off the rim, allowing Houston to survive.
With the win, Houston moves on to face the winner of Thursday night’s game between No. 3 Michigan and No. 14 Montana. And with Gray performing at such an elite level, the Cougars certainly could prove to be a dangerous team. But you can’t expect him push 40 points on a nightly basis, so his teammates will need to step up in the Round of 32.
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