Caleb Mills and Fabian White Jr. lead the Houston Cougars with a win to close out the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

Cougars win Hawaiian Classic with victory over Huskies

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It was a holly jolly Christmas for the Houston Cougars as they closed the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with a 75-71 victory over the No. 21 Washington Huskies Wednesday night inside the Stan Sheriff Center in Hawaii. With the win, the Cougars closed the mid-season tournament as champions while improving to 10-3 on the season.

After a solid performance in their previous game against Georgia Tech, freshman guard Caleb Mills and junior forward Fabian White Jr. scored 19 points apiece to help lead a comeback victory for the Cougars. White earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award while shooting 7-for-13 (53%) from the field.

Down 36-31 at the half, Houston trailed by as many as 14 points early in the first period. Behind a 12-point second-half surge by White, the Cougars outscored the Huskies 44-35 in the final 24 minutes en route to their fourth straight victory.

While playing from behind most of the game, the Cougars' offensive woes played the most significant part in their early struggles against the Huskies. Houston only connected on 37.3% of their shots while Washington shot 46.2% from the floor. Sophomore guard Quentin Grimes ended the night with an all-around performance of 14 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals in the win.

In the loss, Isaiah Stewart led the Huskies in scoring with a game-high 25 points (8-for-13 FG, 9-11 FT) to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks.

Following the win, the Cougars will open their American Athletic Conference play with a showdown against UCF on Friday, Jan. 3, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston. 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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