A 33-point victory over the Wichita State Shockers leads to the largest win of the season for the Houston Cougars.

Defense leads to Cougars largest win of the season against Wichita State

The University of Houston Men's basketball team (19-5, 9-2) took a 76-43 wire-to-wire victory over the Wichita State Shockers (17-6, 5-5), Sunday afternoon, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston. The 33 point victory by the Cougars was their largest margin of the season while handing the Shockers their worst defeat since February 2003.

Making his return to the starting lineup in back-to-back games, sophomore guard Quentin Grimes scored a game-high 14 points (6-9 FG), to go along with six rebounds and five assists in the win.

"The most important thing our kids can do in our program is to surrender to our culture," head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win. "The effort it takes to play here, the toughness that we required is not easy to do — especially for our young guys."

Early in the first half, the No. 25 Cougars set a tone defensively that would carry over throughout the game. At the 10:41 mark, Caleb Mill completed a chase-down block on Wichita State's Tyson Etienne, which led to a made 3-point field goal by the freshman guard.

Mill's rejection of Etienne summarized what could have been the Cougars' best defensive performance of the season. During the first period, Houston recorded 14 points off turnovers, eight steals and two blocks, while holding the Shockers to shoot an unpleasant 25.0% from the floor.

An exceptional defensive performance by the Cougars led to a 38-18 halftime led over Wichita State — Houston's lowest points allowed by any opponent this season.

"That was a tough game for Wichita St. today coming off back-to-back losses against Tulsa and Cincinnati," Sampson said. "We came out sharp on the defensive end, and since we are not a good jump-shooting team, we had to find a different way to win. One team was playing uphill while the other was playing down hill."

In his first game back after serving a one-game suspension, DeJon Jarreau helped the Cougars' second unit record a season-high 30 points, as the junior guard from New Orleans registered a dozen on 60% shooting from the field and seven rebounds off the bench.

"Every individual is starting to buy into the system more, and we are maturing more and more day by day," senior big man Chris Harris Jr said. "We are believing in our principals to become a better defensive team."

During their worst game in 17 years, Wichita St. was led by sophomore guard, Dexter Dennis, who finished with a team-high 10 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Up next, the Cougars will hit the road on Wednesday to face off against the (11-12, 4-6) UCF Bulls inside the Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, FL. Tip-off is slated for 8 P.M. CT.

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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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