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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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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