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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
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.

Can't get enough Astros coverage?

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:

Apple Podcasts

AudioBoom

Google Podcasts

iHeart

RSS

Spotify

Stitcher

YouTube

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome