The Cincinnati Bearcats rally back in the second half to end the Houston Cougars' five-game winning streak.

Cougars fall short in loss to the Bearcats

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The Houston Cougars trailed by two when Cedrick Alley Jr. snagged a rebound off a missed free throw from Brison Gresham. With 10 seconds remaining on the clock, Alley kicked it out to an open Caleb Mills for a potential game-winning basket.

Despite the open look, the shot by the freshman guard clanged off the front of the rim, as the Cincinnati Bearcats took a nail-baiting 64-62 victory over the Cougars, Saturday evening, inside the Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. With the loss, the Bearcats handed the Cougars their second loss in conference play (17-5, 7-2), while ending Houston's five-game winning streak.

Despite a dominating performance in the first half by the Cougars, Mills' shot was far from the struggles Houston endured late in the second period. With a little over six minutes in the game, Dejon Jarreau drew a technical foul after he allegedly bit Cincinnati's Mamoudou Diarra and was ejected.

After recording 40 points in the first half while shooting 44% from the floor, 46% from deep, the Cougars missed 14 of their final 15 shots from the floor as the Bearcats battled back from a 15-point deficit.

With only two players scoring in double-figures, freshman guard Marcus Sasser led the Cougars with 17 points (6-10 FG, 4-5 3PT), while sophomore, Nate Hinton, added in 16 points to go along with a team-high eight rebounds in the loss.

Although he finished the contest tied for a game-high 17 points, senior froward Jarron Cumberland received addition help down the stretch for Cincinnati. Junior guard Keith Williams scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, while forward Tre Scott registered an all-around double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in the win.

Following the loss, the Cougars will look to return to their winning ways on Thursday, when Houston takes on the 10-11, 2-7 Tulane Green Wave. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. CT inside the Fertitta Center in Houston.

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PROBABLE STARTERS

Tues. Aug 4: Cristian Javier (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 4.09)

Wed. Aug 5: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 5.40) vs. Robbie Ray (0-2, 8.64)

Thurs. Aug 6: Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00) vs. Zac Gallen (0-0, 2.70)

STORYLINES

  • Is Cristian Javier for real? Javier won Astros minor league pitcher of the year in 2019, and followed his award winning season with an award winning performance in his first career start. Javier filled in masterfully for the injured Justin Verlander, matching Dodgers phenom Dustin May tit-for-tat. The Astros came out on the losing end of that game, but Javier left a great first impression.
  • Who can step up in the bullpen? The bullpen will be a story all season long. Blake Taylor has solidified himself as a reliable option, but can anybody even name a reliable second option? Take note of this hypothetical pitching staff:

Gerrit Cole

Justin Verlander

Wade Miley

Colin McHugh

Jose Urquidy

Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Cionel Perez

All of those arms were available to the Astros last season. Whether it be free agency departure, legitimate baseball-related injury, or COVID-related reasons, none of the above are currently available to the Astros. Keep in mind, those are 13 pitchers listed, which is what the Astros would usually carry in a normal season. It is no longer the Astros staff of yesteryear.

  • Can the Astros bats get going? The Astros offensive woes are overstated, as the team is still top 10 in MLB in offensive statistics like OPS, AVG, and Runs Scored, but the production hasn't come from the likes of Springer, Bregman, and Altuve for the most part.
  • Greinke's return to Arizona. Chase Field will certainly be a raucous environment, as -- oops. The stadium will be silent, but the cardboard cutouts could get rowdy as Zack Greinke makes his return to Arizona, where he led the Diamondbacks pitching staff for three-and-a-half years. It'll have been 371 days since the Astros acquired Greinke when he toes the rubber on Thursday. My, does it feel like 3,071 days ago.

PREDICTIONS

It's crazy to say that a series 10 games into the season is make-or-break, but the Diamondbacks are only 3-7, and a losing series would be a crushing blow for a team that came into the 2020 season with high expectations. Expect the Diamondbacks to come out energized and ready to go. Madison Bumgarner saves his best performances for big moments, Robbie Ray is a talented pitcher that's gotten off to a rough start, and Zac Gallen has been one of baseball's breakout stars over the last year. The Astros bats will have their hands full to say the least. Combine that with the fact that Arizona's offense that's due to break out in a big way gets to face an injured and overtaxed Astros pitching staff, and the deck is stacked against Houston. Arizona will take two of three.

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