Houston steamrolls back into the top 10

Grimes picked up right where he left off. Photo via: UHCougarMBK/Twitter/Screenshot

After losing to Wichita State on Thursday, February 18th, the Houston Cougars have seemingly found their footing and are outscoring their opponents at unprecedented levels.

This week was no exception as both of their games ended up becoming blow outs starting with Western Kentucky University.

WKU was a last minute addition, for Houston did not have any opponent scheduled in between Cincinnati and University of South Florida (more on that game later.)

The Hilltoppers were looking to strengthen their NCAA tournament bid as they have barely played any of their Conference USA matchups.

Houston obliged and agreed to host the game at the Fertitta Center on Thursday, February 25th.

The game started off close and the Cougars only had a one point lead at halftime (39-38). But once Houston returned to the court from their locker room, Western Kentucky didn't stand a chance.

The Cougars went on a 42-19 run for the entire second half and built a lead that was insurmountable for the Hilltoppers to climb.

The leading scorer for the Cougars was guard Quentin Grimes, who notched a career high 33 points. The Woodlands native shot 8-16 from beyond the arc (also a career high) and led the Cougars to an 81-57 victory.

Grimes' game has been ascending at the right time as the American Athletic Conference Tournament and the NCAA Tournament are both coming up. His teammates have taken notice as Grimes continues to play elite level basketball.

"It's what Quentin does," Houston forward Justin Gorham said. "We know he's capable of it. We see it every day in practice and even in games. We trust Quentin to take the shots he takes, and coach (Kelvin Sampson) trusted him, so when he got going, we tried to feed him the ball, tried to find him and let him rock out."

Although Grimes was having a career night, head coach Kelvin Sampson was critical of one element of his game, his rebounding.

"He's a lot better when he rebounds," Sampson said. "He had six in the second half. I didn't ask for his autograph at halftime or tell him how great he looked. I told him if he wanted to be a complete player, he better play both ends and rebound, and that's what he did."

One thing Sampson couldn't criticize however was the defensive performance from both Grimes and the rest of his team.

Houston forced the Hilltoppers into 20 turnovers and turned that into 27 points. All of which were 3-pointers from Grimes.

"His confidence level is sky-high right now." Samson said praising his leading scorer.

Houston continued this scoring momentum into Sunday as the faced University of South Florida for their final home game of the season.

The Fertitta Center was rocking in front of a socially-distant crowd as the Cougars put on an offensive clinic.

Grimes picked up right where he left off and scored all 22 points of his points in the first half.

"When he gets hot like that, it's really amazing to watch," Houston guard DeJon Jarreau said. "I just want him to keep shooting because it's really a show. I enjoy watching it, and the whole team enjoys watching it. Whoever is hot, we try to keep feeding him."

Jarreau was the second leading scorer as he put up 16 points and added eight rebounds and six assists. He attributed his success and his team's excellence to their commitment to defense.

"Playing defense, we defended well," Jarreau said. "We made a lot of shots today. Coach Sampson always says that if we make shots and defend well, it will be hard for a team to beat us. With those two things coming together, it doesn't get any better than that."

Defense continues to be the backbone of this team as Houston forced the Bulls to commit 15 turnovers which resulted in 22 points.

The Cougars took a 56-21 halftime lead including a 26-0 run. Houston's starters only played sparingly in the second half as a Bulls comeback was highly unlikely to near impossible.

The final was a 98-52 victory and was the 2nd largest margin of victory this season behind their 66 point thumping of Our Lade of the Lake.

The Cougars have now won three straight games and have outscored their opponents by 38, 24 and 46 points respectfully.

This win secured their 24th straight victory at home and is also the 9th consecutive game Houston has won against USF.

Houston's offensive tirade comes on the heals of the AP essentially snubbing them from the top 10 after their narrow road loss to Wichita State last week. Coach Sampson and the Cougars seem to have taken this criticism personally and have stepped up their games tremendously. Houston now has their eyes set on the AAC tournament and are looking to secure at least the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

It was the final home game of the season for a couple of Cougars including seniors Jarreau, Brison Gresham, and potentially Fabian White who may have another year of eligibility. It could have been the final home game for Grimes as well, who looks to enter the NBA Draft after this season.

MOVING UP: Many teams fell in the AP rankings including, Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Villanova which opened the door for the Cougars to jump from Number 12 to the 9th ranked team in the country.

UP NEXT: Houston has one final regular season game at Memphis Sunday, March 7th at 11am on CBS before starting the AAC tournament on Thursday, March 11th in Fort Worth.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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