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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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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