Doing into today's NCAA Midwest Regional basketball final against Boston College, Houston Coach Guy Lewis knew his team had to do two things better--handle full-court pressure and shoot free throws.
The Cougars, despite second-half foul trouble, improved in both areas and defeated Boston College, 99-92, advancing to the national semifinals for the first time since Elvin Hayes led them to appearances in 1967 and 1968.
Houston (25-7), the Southwest Conference runner-up, will play North Carolina Saturday in the national semifinals at the Louisiana Superdome. Tipoff is scheduled at 3:39 p.m. EST, with the Georgetown-Louisville game scheduled to start 30 minutes after the first game concludes.
Guard Rob Williams led Houston today with 25 points and freshman Reid Gettys, who had not played in the Cougars' five previous games, was 10 for 10 from the foul line in the second half. Guard John Bagley scored 26 points for Boston College (22-10), the fourth-place team in the Big East Conference that got this far with upsets of San Francisco, De Paul and Kansas State.
"I felt we would win the game if we handled their press," Lewis said moments after today's victory. "Boston College has a very good press. I felt like we could do it, and we did it."
Lewis, aware that his team had suffered at the free-throw line throughout the season, noticed Gettys was shooting very well from the line in practice. So when the Cougars got in foul trouble, he sent in Gettys, and his foul shooting was perfect.
"I saw he was the best free-throw shooter in practice that we had," Lewis said. "For a freshman he turned in a pretty gutty performance."
Tom Davis, the Boston College coach, said his team played "about as well as we're capable of playing.
"Houston was terrific," he said.
Davis noted Gettys' performance: "I didn't know much about him, since he is a freshman. I assume he's a very talented player, hitting those free throws the way he did."
Boston College, seeking its first trip to the final four, took a five-point lead early in the first half, but fell behind the taller Cougars, 46-43, by intermission and never got closer than two points.
Bagley kept the Eagles close, scoring 18 of his 26 points after being charged with his fourth foul with less than three minutes gone in the second half.
Houston twice seemed on the verge of putting the game away, but each time Bagley and the Eagles fought back. Trailing, 77-68, Boston College closed to within 81-77 after two baskets by Bagley, a followup by Jay Murphy and a basket by Rich Shrigley.
Houston, which had five players in double figures, increased its lead to 88-80 with 2:04 left when Clyde Drexler made two free throws after John Garris, a hero in Boston College's regional semifinal victory over Kansas State, fouled out.
Houston, which had a four-game losing streak during its conference season, has won 13 of its last 14 games, including tournament victories over Alcorn State, Tulsa and Missouri.
Cougars' guard Lynden Rose, who fouled out with 2:41 left, had 15 points and forward Larry Micheaux had 18.