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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

The Rockets selected Jalen Green with the No. 2 pick. Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images.

The city of Houston can finally rejoice as Jalen Green was selected as the number two pick by the Rockets at the 2021 NBA Draft. It was already suspected that the Rockets would draft Green from past reports. Shams Charania of The Athletic already reported that the Rockets narrowed their decision down to Green.

Green is an explosive shooting guard that can get in-and-out amongst the perimeter and paint. With the G-League Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is an excellent free throw shooter at 82.9 percent. Like James Harden, he is incredibly good at getting to the free throw line. Green has a good trigger from three by shooting 36.5 percent on 5.7 attempts a game. His mature status since high school has prepared him for the NBA.

"His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard", as Joey Fucca, his ex-coach told TDS. "If he says he's going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to the free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, you're just going to have a long night. I wouldn't be excited to guard him."

Green has blistering speed with outstanding handles to blow by his defenders and score. Spectators have compared Green to a younger Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Bradley Beal, and Zach Lavine, which are superstar players. He is a particularly good midrange shooter underneath the perimeter, as he shot 35 percent on a small quantity of attempts in a shorter season.

"Jalen is a uniquely blessed guy. He's a transcendent athlete," as Rockets GM Rafael Stone said. "He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. Normally, people that athletic aren't as skilled. We think that combination of tools makes him an extraordinarily exciting prospect."

During his press conference on Thursday night, Green emphasized the achievements he wants to accomplish with the Rockets. Green even discussed his desire of being a better defender, as he wants to continue to get better. He has a great wingspan and lateral movement to stay with opposing players on defense and be disruptive in the passing lanes.

"They're going to say it's a great choice," Green said. "Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-Defense, max contract. We're doing it big."

"Yeah, I think I can be that piece. I think I'm going to bring that dominant mentality, that defensive mindset…They already got a lot of star players"

As the draft continued, the Rockets sent future draft picks from the Wizards to land the 16th pick in the draft, which was 6'10 Alperen Sengun from Turkey. The 16th pick did belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder until Rafael Stone executed an interesting deal with Sam Presti.

"We did not think he would fall to us at 23, so we were really aggressive to try and move up all throughout the first round to acquire him," as Stone said.

Sengun's abilities on the court revolve around his post ups and skillful passing. He even maintains good feet along the baseline. In his press conference, he mentioned his passing skills can become better. There are clips of him looking impressive on shovel passes, passing the ball behind his back, and finding the cutting man towards the basket. Sengun looked good in double teams by showing he can still find the open man with his back turned.

While playing in the Turkish Super League, Sengun was an MVP at 18-years-old, averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assist, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. He could be another huge figure next to Christian Wood on the court, and a safety blanket for the Rockets if they cannot bring back Kelly Olynyk.

Usman Garbua is similar to former Rocket Luc Mbah a Moute. He is 6'8 with a tremendous wingspan at 7'3 and can guard anyone on the court, which is 1-5. Garbua was seen guarding Kevin Durant in the Team USA vs. Spain matchup and had interesting battles. The Rockets will get a ton of energy out of the 19-year-old player. He knows how to run the floor in transition, so he can finish around the rim. As I see it, he could be on a defensive first team in the future as he matures more. Garbua will become a defensive nightmare against opposing players.

"I think he's the best defender in the world outside of the NBA, and he's just 19 years old," Stone said. "I think he potentially could be really, really impactful on that side of the ball."

As the Rockets made their last selection, they selected Green's AAU buddy, Josh Christopher from Arizona State. He impressed a ton of scouts during his draft workouts and scrimmage against other prospects. Christopher had a double-double during his third scrimmage, which was 16 points and 10 rebounds. He is a very shifty guard with a ferocious step back.

While playing with the Sun Devils, he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot 49 percent from the field. Just like Green, he loved the midrange opportunities, as he shot 49.6 percent underneath the perimeter. He is another shifty big body the Rockets will have in their back court at 6'5. Christopher is very good at rebounding and playing defense. Stone loves watching him in defensive one-on-one situations. Christopher has Sixth Man of the Year written all over him because of his stocky body type and upside.

Hopefully, the Rockets have an exciting summer league and training camp along with their season.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome