The Houston Cougars record a season-high 11 blocks in a blowout victory over the UTEP Miners.

Cougars defense tops Miners in blowout victory

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It did not take long for the Houston Cougars to pick up where they left off during the second half of their previous game. Playing with high energy on both ends of the floor, the Cougars took a 77-57 victory over the UTEP Miners, Thursday night, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston.

With the win, the Cougars improve to 7-3 on the season while the Miners suffered their second loss of the year with an 8-2 record.

"We keep getting better and believing in what we are doing," head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win. "This team is still learning how to play with each other, and we gotta keep fighting and getting better."

Although they had a solid night on the offensive end shooting 43.9% from the floor, and 50.0% from behind the arc, the Cougars' performance on the defensive end is what led to a wire-to-wire victory. UH recorded a season-high 11 blocks with junior big man Brison Gresham leading the way with a career-best six rejections to protect the paint. In addition to recording 10 points, Gresham also received his first double-double of the season with 12 rebounds.

"It's the way I practice," Gresham said. "I put in a lot of work over the past two days and I feel like my energy carried over to the game."

Houston led by double figures for the majority of the game, but the Miners went on several runs in a come back attempt. UTEP's biggest stretch came late in the first half on a 12-0 run to cut their 15-point deficit down to three. The Cougars withstood the Miners' surge to take a 37-27 lead into the half.

Following a career performance against the OSU Cowboys on Sunday, Caleb Mills scored 17 points (7-17 FG, 2-2 3PT) in his first career start in the win. With his fifth double-double of the season, sophomore guard Nate Hinton added 17 points of his own to go along with 10 rebounds.

"Nate [Hinton] is one of those guys you take for granted because he does it every night," Sampson said. "The most impressing thing about Nate tonight, he had 17 points on six shots — very efficient."

In the loss, the Miners were led by junior forward, Bryson Williams, who scored 17 points while shooting 7-for-19 from the field (37%), 3-for-6 (50%) from deep. The only other player to score in double figures for UTEP was Souley Boum, who recorded 13 points.

Following the win, the Cougars will hit the road to compete in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic inside the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu on Dec. 22-25.

Quick Notes:

  • After going scoreless in his last game, Quentin Grimes scored four points shooting 2-for-8 from the floor.
  • The Cougars won the battle of the boards out-rebounding the Miners 49-34.
  • The Cougars scored a total of 34 points in the paint.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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