Cougars climb to their highest ranking in 36 years

The Coogs keep rolling. Photo via: UHCougarMBK/Twitter/Screenshot

Editor's note: University of Houston announced on Tuesday that they are pausing basketball activities due to positive COVID tests.

The University of Houston men's basketball team was without both Kelvin Sampson and Assistant Coach Kellen Sampson when they played South Carolina last Saturday. Both of the coaches were impacted by COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, thus they had to miss their first game of the season.

Cougars' assistant coach Quannas White was given the opportunity to take up the reins as head coach during the game, and the Cougars got off to a shaky start. However, timely points and great defensive stops secured a Houston victory and prevented their first loss of the season.

The first half was atrocious for the Cougars and seemingly none of their shots were going in. Their shooting percentage was 33% and were 1 of 13 on 3-pointers. At one point, the Cougars went 8½ minutes without a field goal.

South Carolina out played the Cougars and took a 35-31 lead at halftime. This was short-lived, for Houston took over the game with their trilogy of success; tough defense, good rebounding and taking care of the ball in the second half.

Houston had a 14-2 run early in the second half and recaptured the lead 48-42 with 14 minutes remaining. South Carolina kept it close and cut the lead back to a one point game 50-49. However, Houston used a 12-3 run to take a 10-point lead and never looked back.

Junior guard Quentin Grimes truly came alive in the scored half where he scored 19 of his 23 points and went 12-13 from the free throw line.

Injuries did play a part in this game, for Houston was without both Caleb Mills and their leading scorer Marcus Sasser on Saturday. Both players were inactive for the game and both were wearing walking boots on the bench.

This is the second game Mills has missed including Houston's first game of the season against Lamar on Nov. 25 with an injury.

The Cougars reached a new peak for this season as they climbed 3 spots to No. 7 in the country, according to the Associated Press Top 25.

This is the program's highest ranking in 36 years. The last time the Cougars were ranked this high was during the 1983-84 season. They finished 5th in the country that year.

Their next game is on Wednesday against Sam Houston State and the Cougars will once again be with out both Sampson coaches as they continue their continued COVID-19 contact tracing.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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