MARCH MADNESS

Upsetting No.1 seed Arizona in Sweet 16 could come down to this for UH Coogs

Upsetting No.1 seed Arizona in Sweet 16 could come down to this for UH Coogs
The Coogs square off with Arizona on Thursday night. Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images.

After defeating both UAB and Illinois in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Houston Cougars have advanced to their third straight Sweet 16 and have a date with No. 1 seed Arizona.

The Cougars obtained their first two victories with great defensive performances, effective rebounding and timely scoring from a multitude of players.

Their previous game against Illinois saw Taze Moore and Jamal Shed take over from a scoring perspective.

Moore tallied a season high 21 points, seven rebounds and two steals, and Shed contributed an additional 18 to push the Cougars past the Fighting Illini.

Senior guard Kyler Edwards has been shooting lights out as well. The Texas native has made at least three 3-pointers in 14 games, and has scored at least 15 points in three of his last four contests.

Houston’s leading scorer seems to heating up at the right time and has been the team’s go-to 3-point shooter as of late.

Other starters Fabian White Jr. and Josh Carlton were contained throughout most of the Illinois contest, but Houston was able to adjust without their bigs by establishing scoring outside the paint.

White made some key shots at the end of the game, but the Fighting Illini defense held Houston’s all-time winningest player to obtain only six points.

The Cougars however didn’t need to have a stellar offensive showcase to win, as they dominated Illinois with some elite level defense holding them to 34% shooting, and forced 17 turnovers.

Houston's next game against Arizona will be their toughest of the season so far, but head coach Kelvin Sampson may have a few tricks up his sleeve to keep his team’s title hopes alive.

In their previous game against Illinois, Houston had to adjust their offense from the paint to the perimeter due to the Fighting Illini playing great interior defense.

Coach Sampson has changed his offense in-game with great success throughout this season, and can give Arizona a run for their money if they are unprepared.

Even though the Wildcats are favored to win, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Houston advance past the No.1 Seed.

Arizona’s tournament run saw them defeat Wright State and survive a narrow overtime victory over TCU.

The latter was a result of the Horned Frogs containing top-10 NBA Draft prospect Bennedict Mathurin early before the Wildcats eventually mounted a comeback to win the game.

Houston is a vastly superior defensive team compared to TCU, and has done a good job limiting guards over the course of this season.

Players like Shed, Edwards and Moore will likely take turns defending the Pac-12 Player of the Year and look to limit his production from the perimeter where he is extremely efficient.

If the Cougars can contain Mathurin’s scoring, play an elite level defense and have timely scoring, there’s reason to believe Houston will be advancing to their second consecutive Elite Eight.

The game tips off at 8:59 p.m. at AT&T Center in San Antonio and will be televised on TBS.

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Duran leads the AL to victory! Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Speedy Jarren Duran describes himself as a player who keeps his head down, works hard and never thinks of himself as being better than anybody else.

Duran turned some heads in his first All-Star Game, hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer for the American League and being awarded the MVP trophy named after Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams.

“That's an honor. Who else would I want to try to follow in the footsteps of besides a guy like that, who is not just a great baseball player but a great human being,” Duran said after becoming the fifth Red Sox player selected All-Star Game MVP. “That guy was awesome, and I’m honored to be able to have his award.”

The decisive homer came in the fifth inning Tuesday night as the AL beat the National League 5-3 for its 10th win in the past 11 All-Star Games.

Pittsburgh rookie Paul Skenes pitched a hitless first for the NL, twice hitting 100 mph, and Shohei Ohtani also went deep in Texas with a three-run homer for a 3-0 lead in the third.

Juan Soto hit a two-run double and scored on David Fry’s single to tie the score in the AL third, and Duran went deep off Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene.

“It’s a surreal moment. So I’m just thankful to be here,” said Duran, who was one of 39 first-time All-Stars this year.

Oakland right-hander Mason Miller got the win after throwing a 103.6 mph pitch, the fastest in the All-Star Game since tracking began in 2008. Hard-throwing Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase struck out two in the ninth for the save.

The 22-year-old Skenes, who has pitched only 11 big league games since being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft last July, became the first rookie starter since 1995 and had the fewest games played for any player to make an All-Star team. The right-hander threw a hitless first, with a two-out walk to Soto before his Yankees teammate Aaron Judge grounded into a forceout on the next pitch.

Skenes threw 11 of 16 pitches for strikes, with seven fastballs up to 100.1 mph.

“Frankly, I wish I’d had a few more pitches to do that today,” said Skenes, who has a good mix of pitches to go with the hard stuff. “It’s cool to bring eyes to the game.”

Ohtani, who has gone deep 29 times in the first season of his record $700 million, 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, pulled a 400-foot drive to right off Tanner Houck. That came after the Boston right-hander allowed singles to the first two batters he faced: No. 9 batter Jurickson Profar and leadoff hitter Ketel Marte.

“I haven’t really hit well in the All-Star Game, so I’m just relieved that I put the ball in play,” Ohtani said. “I just focused on having a regular at-bat as if I was in the regular season.”

When Ohtani went against Miller in the fifth, he struck out on an 89.2 mph slider well inside and out of the strike zone. That was after twice taking strikes on fastballs of more than 100 mph.

Ohtani’s first All-Star homer made him the first Dodgers player to go deep in the Midsummer Classic since Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza in 1996. Eleven days after his 30th birthday, Ohtani was an All-Star for the fourth time — his first with the NL.

Baltimore’s Anthony Santander, after taking over for Soto in right field, had a two-out single in the fifth before Duran’s 413-foot homer to right-center after he had replaced Judge in center. Duran took a 95.9 mph fastball before going deep on an 86 mph splitter.

“I knew he threw really hard so I was just praying he would throw me a first pitch fastball so I could see how hard it was. After that, I was hoping to get a pitch up,” Duran said. “He happened to leave a pitch up. I happened to put a good swing on it.”

The last Red Sox player to be the All-Star MVP was J.D. Drew in 2008, following Pedro Martinez in 1999, Roger Clemens in 1986 and Carl Yastrzemski in 1970.

Duran was voted by his peers as an All-Star after being the first AL player to go into the break with at least 100 hits, 10 triples, 10 homers and 20 stolen bases.

The AL has a 48-44-2 record in the All-Star Game, and had won nine in a row before the National League's 3-2 victory last year in Seattle.

AL starter Corbin Burnes arrived in Texas the morning of the game after spending time at home with his newborn twin daughters. The Baltimore right-hander allowed a walk and then a two-out double to Bryce Harper before getting out of his inning on a comebacker by William Contreras, his catcher last season in Milwaukee.

After his underhand toss of the ball to first base, Burnes had a big smile on his face when he kept jogging and wrapped his arm around Contreras on the baseline.

Quick game

Played in 2 hours, 28 minutes, it was the shortest All-Star Game since 1988, a game that the AL won 2-1 in Cincinnati that took only two minutes less.

Won in both leagues

Bruce Bochy of the host Rangers became the first manager to win World Series titles and All-Star Games in both leagues. Bochy is now 2-3 as an All-Star manager, leading the NL to a win in 2011. He won the World Series three times with the NL's San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014, then led the Rangers to their first championship in his debut season with them last year.

Up next

The MLB regular series resumes Friday when 14 games are scheduled, with Milwaukee and Minnesota the only teams that won’t play until Saturday. Philadelphia (62-34) has the best record in the majors and Cleveland (58-37) has an AL-best .611 winning percentage, though Baltimore and the New York Yankees also have 58 wins.

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