COUGARS REPORT

Houston remains undefeated at home after rolling past Wichita State and Tulane

The Cougars continue to dominate at home. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Houston looked to get back on track and continue their winning ways when they hosted the Wichita State Shockers on Wednesday, January 6th.

Just like their previous game against SMU, The Cougars couldn't get any kind of offensive rhythm going in the first half. The Shockers took advantage of Houston's woes and went into the locker room up 31-25 at halftime.

They kept this momentum going into the second half as Wichita State increased their lead to 10 points with 18:44 left to go in the contest.

Houston wasn't going to give up without a fight, for they responded with a 16-0 run to take a six-point lead with 13 minutes left.

Junior Guard Quentin Grimes led the way for this comeback as he scored seven of his team high 22 points during this run.

Grimes scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and this was his best performance since his previous 22 point outing against Temple back on December 22nd.

Wichita State kept wouldn't go away quietly as they were able to cut the deficit down to four points with 8:44 remaining. This would be as close as the Shockers would get, for Houston pulled away with a 12-2 run to open up a 14-point lead on consecutive 3-pointers by Grimes with 5:44 left.

The Cougars secured a 70-63 victory and this was the 9th time in 10 contests in which Houston held their opponents scoring to under 65 points.

Their next game against Tulane wasn't nearly as competitive.

Houston defeated the Green Wave 71-50 to improve their record to 10-1 and 5-1 in conference play.

Sophomore Guard Marcus Sasser had himself a game as he scored a career high 28 points and made eight 3-pointers.

"They were leaving me open a little bit, and coach (Kelvin Sampson) gives me confidence to shoot the ball," Sasser said. "Every time I shot it, it was going in. I feel like that was the hottest I've been."

Sasser, Grimes and DeJon Jarreau continue to prove they are the best trio of guards in college basketball day in and day out.

This has been said many times, but Houston continues to win on defense, rebounding and superior guard play.

UH set a season-high with 15 3-pointers and Houston has now won 17 straight games at the Fertitta Center and UH has now won five consecutive games at home against Tulane.

Mills Update:

UH announced Tuesday that AAC Preseason Player of the Year Caleb Mills is transferring.

Mills led Houston in scoring as a freshman last season, helping lead the team to a 23-8 record and share of the AAC title.

But the 6-foot-3 guard had dealt with an ankle injury this season and was averaging just 19 minutes off the bench in four games for the No. 11 Cougars.

"I am grateful to Coach Sampson, my coaches and teammates for the opportunities in Houston," Mills said in the university's announcement. "This decision allows me to play closer to home and is best for me and my family."

Mills was will presumably transfer to a school in which he can start for next season.

Up Next:

Houston has a couple of days off before they head to Tampa to take on the USF Bulls.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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