Freshman guard Marcus Sasser scored a game-high 21 points in Cougars' win over the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Cougars reclaim top seed in win over Cincinnati

After dropping two of their previous three games, the No. 25 Houston Cougars picked up a much-need victory on Sunday in a 68-55 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats inside the Frittata Center in Houston. With the win, the Cougars improve to 12-4 in conference play (22-7) to reclaim their spot atop of the American Athletic Conference.

"To win by shooting 36% with 22 offensive rebounds, it proves that these kids have learned how to win without making shots," head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win. "It speaks volumes to this group of kids, and this is something we have preached since day one."

Despite the win, the Cougars struggled with their shoot from the floor as it became one of their worst shooting performances of the season. Marcus Sasser led the way with a game-high 21 points in 33 minutes, as the sharpshooting guard recorded a dozen in the final period shooting 8-for-16 (50%) from the field, 5-for-12 (41.6%) from 3-point range. UH led 49-44 when Sasser scored nine straight points for Houston during a 15-5 run to extend their second-half lead.

Houston trailed 30-25 when freshman guard Caleb Mills connected on a 3-point field goal to pull the Cougars within two points. Following the shot, Houston closed out the half on a 13-1 run to take a 38-31 lead into the halftime break. Houston's defense was on full display throughout the second half, as the Cougars held the Bearcats to 24 points while shooting 24% from the field, and a disastrous 9.0% from behind the arc.

"We knew how high the stakes were coming into the game and the importance of it," sophomore guard Nate Hinton said. "Trying to make winning plays were the biggest emphasis, and we had to stick to that mindset."

In addition to Sasser, Hinton added in 16 points and seven rebounds, while Mills poured in 15 in the win. The Cougars pulled down 43 boards as senior big man Chris Harris recorded 11 rebounds and four blocks.

In the loss, Tre Scott led the Bearcats with 17 points, while Jarron Cumberland added in 11 points shooting 1-for-7 from the field, 1-for-5 from 3-point range.

Up next, the Cougars will travel to Connecticut to take on the 17-12, 8-8 UConn Huskies, Thursday, inside the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. Tip-off is slated for 6 P.M. CT.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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