COUGARS REPORT

Here's how Houston was able to rally and beat Rutgers

The Coogs are moving on. Photo by Getty Images.

The Houston Cougars men's basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament after a hard fought battle with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Sunday.

Their tournament began with a blowout victory over Cleveland State in the opening round.

Quentin Grimes led the way with 18 points to help the Cougars beat No. the 15-seed Vikings 87-56 Friday night.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson tied John Wooden by earning his 664th career win and sits at No. 38 for all-time coaching wins.

Less than one minute into the contest, senior guard DeJon Jarreau suffered a hip injury that forced him to miss the rest of the game.

Freshman Tramon Mark played the majority of Jarreau's minutes and added 15 points. Marcus Sasser also stepped up in his absence and scored 14 points.

Jarreau would sit out the remainder of the game for precautionary reasons, and to rest him before the Cougars next game.

"DeJon has been our MVP this season," Sampson said. "Quentin has been our best player but DeJon has been our most important player and I think doing this tonight will give us some confidence going forward."

Houston's next game in the round of 32 was against the No. 10 seed Rutgers Scarlet Knights who upset the No. 7 seed Clemson Tigers.

Jarreau was cleared to play, and was ready to help his team win as he made the first two points of the game and Grimes hit an open three to give the Cougars a quick 5-0 lead.

At one point, Houston's largest lead was 14-7. Rutgers wouldn't give up that easily as they went on a 13-4 run to take a 20-18 lead with 4:14 left to go in the first half.

During this stretch Houston went more than 7 minutes scoring only one field goal thanks to Rutgers playing a fierce interior zone defense, forcing the Cougars to take heavily contested shots.

Marcus Sasser played sparingly in the first half after picking up two quick fouls as did senior forward Justin Gorham.

Rutgers took a 30-27 lead at halftime and Houston looked out matched against this Scarlet Knights' defense.

Shortly after the second half started, Jarreau's hip started to bother him again, and he was forced to sit out for some time.

During his absence, Rutgers took a commanding lead, and at one point were up 50-40 over the Cougars.

Houston looked lost without their leader and Jarreau made his way back into the game as if he was Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals.

"My hip hurt so bad," Jarreau said, "but I just didn't want to go home."

His return to the court provided an excellent spark for a Cougar comeback.

The Cougars were slowly chipping away at their deficit when Jarreau hit a 3-pointer to get them within 58-53 with just over 4 minutes left.

Houston stepped up their defense as Rutgers was only able to score two points in the remaining 4 minutes of the game.

The Cougars were down 58-60 when Jarreau missed the game tying shot, but Tramon Mark secured the rebound, and was fouled as he scored the equalizer to tie the game at 60-60.

Mark made his free throw, thus giving Houston their first lead since the first half. The score was 61-60 with 24 seconds left in the contest.

The next Rutgers possession Geo Baker had the ball stolen from him by Marcus Sasser and Sasser was fouled on his way to an open rim.

Sasser made both of his free throws to give the Cougars took a 63-60 lead.

With nine seconds left in the game, Rutgers set up a play to get Ron Harper Jr open to hit a game tying 3. The play was executed correctly, but Harper missed the shot.

Mark obtained the rebound to secure Houston's spot in the Sweet 16.

Although not the prettiest victory, it was a great win nonetheless according to head coach Kelvin Sampson.

"We have some of these (ugly games) occasionally. We have a lot of pretty ones, too," Sampson said. "On nights we shoot well, we look good, but there's not a lot of teams that can play as poorly as we did and still win, and we've done that a lot."

Quentin Grimes was the leading scorer with 22 points and the captain, Jarreau, added 17 points as well.

"I can't even tell you how bad we wanted it," Jarreau said. "Just will to win, will not to go home."

UP NEXT: Houston will now take some days off as they await their Sweet 16 matchup with No. 11 seed Syracuse on Saturday, March 27th at 8:55 CT.

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