COUGARS REPORT

Let's look back at Houston's path to the Final Four

What a win for the Coogs! Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

For the first time in 37 years, the Houston Cougars Men's basketball team is going to the Final Four.

This hasn't happened since the Phi Slama Jama era with guys like Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

Their journey began with wins over Cleveland State and Rutgers on their way to the Sweet 16.

No. 11 seeded Syracuse faced off with the Cougars after beating San Diego State and West Virginia respectfully.

Syracuse, led by their superior scorer Buddy Boeheim, came into the game with one of the best press defenses in college basketball.

The Cougars got off to a slow start because of this defense. Once they started moving the ball into the paint and not settling for contested 3-pointers, Houston was able to take the lead and never looked back.

Quentin Grimes scored 14 points and locked down the aforementioned Boeheim, helping the Cougars beat Syracuse 62-46 on Saturday night.

Justin Gotham added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Houston and Marcus Sasser contributed 12 points as well.

Houston came into the game holding opponents to a national-low 37.3% shooting, and then forced Syracuse to shoot just 28% (14 for 50), including a 5-for-23 performance from 3-point range. The Cougars held Syracuse to a tournament low 46 points.

Houston won the rebounding battle 39-29, no surprise there.

It wasn't a very close contest as the Cougars were able to defeat Syracuse by a score of 62-46

For the first time in 37 years Houston has advanced past the Sweet 16.

This win set up a matchup with Oregon State in the Elite 8.

The game started off in favor of the Cougars with sophomore guard Marcus Sasser scoring 19 of his 20 points in the first half.

Senior guard DeJon Jarreau played stellar defense and shut down the Beavers leading scorer Ethan Thompson, holding him to a single point before halftime.

The second half was the polar opposite of the first half as Oregon State outscored the Cougars 44-33.

The Beavers started playing a trap style zone defense that was preventing Houston from scoring points in the paint.

It became a game of catch between Grimes, Jarreau and Sasser with one of them taking a heavily contested 3-pointer.

Oregon State had eight turnovers in the first half, but only committed three in the second half. This and their change in defensive strategy lead to a Beaver comeback.

The Cougars shot 32.3% from three and had a hard time scoring on this trap zone defense.

At one point, Oregon State was able to tie the game 55-55 with 3:43 left to go.

"It was right there within our grasp with the effort we showed in the second half," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. "Really proud of this group. We got every single ounce out of them."

Grimes hit a three pointer to give the Cougars a 58-55 lead and from there on out the Cougars never let their lead falter.

Oregon State's ultimate undoing was their lack of consistency from the free throw line.

The Beavers shot 11-20 (55 %) and Houston shot 16-24 (66.7%) from the charity stripe giving the advantage to the Cougars.

Houston was able to make key shots over the last few minutes of the game, and their captain Jarreau shutdown multiple Oregon State players as he nearly finished with a triple double (10 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists) with a steal and 2 blocks.

Oregon State's leading scorer Evan Thompson finished with 11 points as he was shut down by Jarreau throughout most of the game.

The Cougars won the game triumphantly 67-61 and this team can proudly say they are going to the Final Four.

When the game ended Houston's players sprinted to the center of the court to celebrate, then migrated to their fan section and started jumping around and celebrating.

Jarreau met with coach Sampson on the court and gave him a heartfelt hug.

"The story's still being written," Jarreau said. "And we're in the Final Four now."

As per usual, the Cougars cut down the nets one player at a time while wearing their Final Four hats and shirts.

Coach Sampson stood atop a ladder and yanked loose the remnants of the net from the rim. He turned towards his Cougar team and pumped his hands in the air as the Houston Cougars are now Final Four bound.

"This is one of the greatest accomplishments I've been around," Sampson said. "And I have this group of players and this staff ... to thank for it. I'm glad they let me go along on the ride with them. It's been a fun ride with this group."

The Cougars next game will be against Baylor to set up an all-Texas semifinal on Saturday, April 3rd. The Bears beat Arkansas 81-72 on Monday night, creating a Final Four matchup of former foes from the now-defunct Southwest Conference.

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