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Quentin Grimes' career-high 33 points helps Houston top WKU, 81-57

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POSTED: February 25, 2021 -- 11:59 p.m. CT

HOUSTON, TX (Fertitta Center) -- The Houston Cougars stepped outside of conference play Thursday to defeat the Western Kentucky (WKU) Hilltoppers 81-57. Houston junior guard Quentin Grimes scored a career-high 33 points and made a career-high 8 three-point shots.

Houston improves to 19-3 overall (12-3 in the American Athletic Conference) with the victory. Grimes scored 21 of his 33 points in the first half -- including 18 in a row for Houston.

When Marcus Sasser picked up 2 fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game, Sasser went to the bench; and, freshman guard Tramon Mark came in for Sasser. Mark scored 10 of Houston's next 15 points to put Houston on top 19-9 with 14:20 on the clock.

"You got a glimpse of it tonight," Kelvin Sampson, Houston Head Coach said of Mark. "But, I watch him practice every day. That kid's got a chance to be really, really good."

Grimes scored Houston's next 18 points; however, when DeJon Jarreau went to the bench with his second foul (at the 8:38 mark of the first half), Houston's offense bogged down and WKU sliced into Houston's lead.

The Hilltoppers (15-5 overall, 8-2 in Conference USA) beat Houston's perimeter defense to attack the basket, score, or get to the free throw line. WKU shot 52.0% (13 for 25) from the floor in the first AND 10 for 10 from the free throw line.

"Their guards kept turning the corner on us," Coach Sampson said of WKU's guards. "And, not many guards have turned the corner on us this year. No matter who we played: Texas Tech, Boise State, South Carolina. We haven't seen that many guards turn the corner on ball screens."

"But, the second half, we tried to fix that," Sampson continued. "Once we kept them out of the paint, and, we didn't give (WKU center) Charles Bassey any looks on the post. That allowed us to get the ball off the rim and run."

Houston led by 1 (39-38) at halftime.

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WKU guard Taveion Hollingsworth made two free throws early in the second half to put the Hilltoppers on top 40-39. WKU's lead lasted less than 25 seconds.

Marcus Sasser got in the scoring column with a three-point basket. Quentin Grimes followed with another three-point basket for a 45-40 Houston lead. WKU Head Coach Rick Stansbury called a 30-second timeout. Houston went on a 12-2 to lead 57-42.

Jordan Rawls swished a three-pointer to trim Houston's lead to 57-45. WKU did not get closer than 12 points the remainder of the second half.

Grimes reached 33 points on his career-high 8th made three-point shot for a 76-54 Houston lead with 3:40 left in the ball game. Grimes scored less in the second half than he did in the first half; however, he did have six rebounds in the second half compared to zero rebounds in the first half.

"I had zero rebounds at halftime," Grimes acknowledged to the media after the game. "I just wanted to come in and get at least 5 rebounds (in the second half)."

Grimes' 33 points Thursday night moves him into the 1000 point club for his college career.

"It's pretty special," Grimes said. "I can't even lie. I didn't even know I was close to the 1000-point mark; so, that kind of surprised me hearing that. It was great to celebrate with my teammates. You want teammates to uplift you. We don't have one jealous soul on the team and that made it even better. Celebrating with your teammates."

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Houston's interior defense limited Charles Bassey to 9 points and 7 rebounds. Bassey had 7 field goal attempts and made only three.

"I can't tell you how proud I was of Reggie (Reggie Chaney) and Brison (Brison Gresham) of their defense in our 'monster' (defending the low post) action that we like to run."

Houston senior forward Justin Gorham said the game plan was to make Bassey uncomfortable when get the ball, "And, that's what we did."

After shooting 52.0% in the first half, WKU shot 7 for 23 (30.4%) in the second half.

"We showed the second half why we're a good defensive team," Coach Sampson said. "We were using our defense to create our offense; and, that's when we're at our best."


Houston's next game is scheduled for this Sunday, February 28, inside Fertitta Center, against the USF Bulls. Tip time is 3 p.m. ESPNU will broadcast the game.

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