The Houston Cougars are into the Elite 8, making history Saturday with a 62-46 thrashing of 11th-seed Syracuse. The last time the Cougars made it this far was 37 years ago when the Phi Slamma Jamma run ended in 1984 with a trip to the National Championship game.
The Cougars are favorites to advance, but this Oregon State team won’t be easy to knock off. Both teams are similar offensively and defensively and the Beavers are playing their best basketball of the season earning the Cinderella label in this tournament.
Keys for the Cougars
Defense is the name of the game for the University of Houston and they’ll need another stellar effort Monday night. In the win over the Orange, the Cougars held SU to only 46 points on 5-23 from distance to go with only five assists. UH has the best defensive field-goal percentage in the nation and has held opponents to just under 60 points per game. They play both ends at a high intensity and that won’t stop Monday night. The Cougars will get open looks but they will have to work hard for them because the Beavers ride their defense as well and make you work for every possession and basket.
Quentin Grimes and DeJon Jarreau will need to bring their A-game and Marcus Sasser will need his touch as well. He finished with 12 points in the win over Syracuse and snapped out of his shooting slump he had over the previous four games. Justin Gorham broke out with 13 points and 10 rebounds and was one of the heroes from UH’s Sweet 16 win. He’s a rebounding machine with a big motor and anything offensively is a bonus for Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars will need to win the rebounding battle, which they normally do, and on offense, they will need to crash the boards to create second and third-chance opportunities.
Back to Grimes and his impact? He’s hit at least four three-pointers in his past six games and eight of his last nine games. Expect Grimes to find the touch early.
The Cougars are facing a double-digit seed for their fourth consecutive tournament game which is the first time in history that has ever happened.
Keys for the Beavers
Oregon State felt slighted after a run in the PAC-12 and have since won six straight games.
They led the PAC-12 in three point defense.
Ethan Thompson (15 ppg) has dominated on both ends and his physical play will be tested when he faces UH. He’s averaging 24 points so far in the NCAA Tournament. He’s also money at the free-throw line hitting 25 of his 26 attempts at the charity stripe.
Guard Jarod Lucas averages 12.9 ppg and shoots 39% from three-point range. Houston native Warith Alatishe does it all, averaging 9.6 ppg, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game.
Keep this in mind as well regarding OSU. The Beavers were picked last by many in the PAC-12 and wound up 6th and then ran the table in the PAC-12 tournament.
Prediction: UH wins 62-57