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Quentin Grimes' clutch baskets; free throws key to Houston's 76-74 win over 3-seed Memphis in AAC Tournament

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The Saxenian Family

POSTED: March 13, 2021 -- 10:52 p.m. CT

FORT WORTH, TX (Dickies Arena) -- The Houston Cougars won a hard fought 76-74 battle over the Memphis Tigers Saturday afternoon / evening. Houston guard Quentin Grimes came up clutch down the stretch. Grimes 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half.

Grimes scored 14 of Houston's 20 points during a 7 minute stretch which helped Houston recover from losing an 11 point lead in the second half. Grimes and Memphis guard Boogie Ellis exchanged three-point daggers from 9:07 to 7:20 of the second half.

Ellis' started the shootout with a three-point basket to put Memphis ahead 51-50. Twelve seconds later, Grimes answered with a 3 for a 53-51 Houston lead. Ellis split two free throws before Houston's Marcus Sasser made a jumper for a 55-52 lead. Ellis hit a 3 to tie the game at 55. Grimes hit a 3 for a 58-55 lead with 7:20 on the clock.

Memphis tied the game at 58. Sasser hit a floater for a 60-58 Houston lead. Landers Nolley II made a three to put the Tigers' up 61-60. The game was tied at 61 and at 62 before Memphis scored 4 straight points to lead 66-62 with 4:51 on the clock.

Houston' guard DeJon Jarreau scored a driving layup to slice Houston's deficit to 66-64 with 4:39 remaining. Neither team scored a point for 63 seconds until Grimes swished a three-pointer for a 67-66 Houston lead with 3:36 on the game clock.

Ellis answered with a driving layup for a 68-67 Tigers' lead. Memphis forward D.J. Jeffries split two foul shots. Grimes drained another triple for a 70-69 Houston lead with 1:57 remaining in the thrilling contest.

Jeffries answered with a dunk for a 72-71 Tigers' lead. Houston solved Memphis' pressure defense and forward Justin Gorham put Houston ahead 72-71 with 70 seconds left in the game.

Memphis Head Coach Penny Hardaway called timeout to set up a play. After the timeout, Ellis lost his footing; stumbled to the court; and was called for traveling. Grimes missed a kill shot 3 point attempt with 30 seconds remaining; however, Gorham chanced down the loose ball for a huge offensive rebound and was fouled with 27 seconds on the game clock.

Gorham made both free throws. Houston led 74-71. Memphis didn't call timeout. With 12 seconds remaining, Nolley missed a three-point attempt. DeJon Jarreau got the defensive board but lost the ball which gave Memphis life. Boogie Ellis missed a game-tying three-point attempt with 7 seconds on the clock.

Gorham pulled down the miss and was fouled with 5 seconds on the clock. Gorham made both foul shots.

Ellis pushed the ball up the court and sank a running three-point shot with 0.2 seconds remaining. Jarreau quickly inbounded the ball to Grimes. The pass sailed; however, Grimes got his fingers on the ball before it went out of bounds which allowed the 0.2 seconds to elapse for the Houston win.

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Houston led 41-29 at halftime; but, Houston's offense struggled big time early in the second half. Memphis' various pressure defenses disrupted Houston's offense. Houston went scoreless for nearly 8 minutes before Grimes got hot.

"Quentin jumped up and made some timely, timely shots," Kelvin Sampson, Houston Head Coach said after the game. "But, he was the one we were going to play through. As a coach, you have to decide who you're going to play through; and, when we were struggling there - some of it was self-inflected but some of it was because Memphis was doing a great job. It was probably a little bit of both.

"Anytime you're up 12, and you come down and you go down 4, that's a minus 16. A lot of teams aren't built that can come back again. They just find a way to lose. I was really proud.

"I'm glad we won the game the way we did. Would I have rather won by 20? Of course. But, getting down like that and then coming back and winning the way we won it with an offensive rebound and making our free throws. That is so March. That is so March. Rebounding and then making free throws. Couldn't give our kids a better lesson on how to win close games in March."

Grimes answered the call down the stretch.

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"They kept plugging and plugging," Coach Penny Hardaway said of Houston. "Quentin Grimes made some big shots."

Hardaway added, "We had a lead a few times. Had a chance to knock 'em out and just couldn't. That's just the resiliency in them and who they are. They're used to winning. They're culture is set. They have a great culture; and, they just never gave in."

Memphis shot a higher percentage (48.3 to 37.0) than Houston in the second half; however, the Tigers shot 59.1% (13 for 22) from the foul line in the half while Houston shot 91.7% (11 for 12) in the second 20 minutes.

"We didn't do the little things. We didn't make free throws. I didn't make free throws," Boogie Ellis commented after the game. "That's really what it comes down to -- making our free throws. We were right there with them for every other category except free throws."

Ellis scored a game high 27 points on 9 for 16 field goal shooting including 5 for 8 from long range; BUT, Ellis missed 6 of his 10 free throw attempts.

Ellis said Coach Hardaway told the players he was proud of the effort in the game; but, the little things hurt them.

"He said he was proud with how we fought," Ellis said, "But, we gotta be able to do the little things to finish the game off. Our playmakers have to make free throws. We gotta get more stops; and, we gotta be better on defense. We let Quentin Grimes hit those tough threes late in the shot clock. If we would have switched tighter, we would've been fine; but, it comes back to the little things again."

Hardaway added, "They're a really good team. They just kept plugging away. As we were playing, it was unfolding the way that we needed it to; but, I knew that they weren't going to go away. We were going to have to knock them out; and, we could never get to that point. And, when we couldn't get to that point, - we just had a close game at their place - they're used to winning. We're not used to winning on that level.

"It just came down to the toughest team, the smartest team, and the team that's won, that's established a culture."

Coach Sampson said, "I didn't think that we played particularly well; but, I don't know that you can as hard as those two teams play against each other.

"Memphis is really good. They're really good defensively. We're really good. We're really good defensively. They're not going to look great against us; and, we're not going to look great against them. It's just going to be like that. That's going to be like whoever Memphis plays. They're a good team. But, now we just move on. We got the championship game against a team that's red hot."

Sampson praised Grimes for his performance in Houston's win.

"The guy that was an absolute stud tonight that just owned the moment was Quentin," Sampson remarked. "I just thought he owned that moment. He loved it. He wanted it. He sought it. He craved it."

"Every team in March has got somebody that hits big shots. That's the confidence Quentin's coaches and teammates have in him. He's the guy we want shooting those. He looked comfortable.

"I've told him more than one time he can't take a bad shot that's how much confidence I have in him."

Grimes says he's playing with supreme confidence this season.

"It's pretty high," Grimes said of his confidence level. "From all the work I've put in all year with Coach Q (Houston Assistant Coach Quannas White). We shoot all the time. The coaches have ultimate trust in me. My teammates have ultimate trust in me; and, I have the ultimate trust in myself. And, I think that's where it started. You just have to keep going. Keep going."

The Saxenian Family

"We haven't been in this situation enough," Hardaway acknowledged. "We're young still. With a lot of sophomores; but, that first half, we spotted them. Even though we got back into the games, you just can't spot teams of that magnitude."

"Quentin Grimes was a man," Coach Sampson summarized.

Grimes finished the game with 21 points and 6 rebounds. Gorham scored 15 points (3 for 6 fgs and 9 for 9 fts) and had a team-high 7 rebounds. Marcus Sasser scored 14 points (5/15 fgs, 2/10 threes). DeJon Jarreau scored 11 points and added 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Jarreau also had 6 of Houston's 15 turnovers.


Houston's next game is Sunday, March 14, in the finals of the 2021 AAC Men's Basketball Tournament. Houston will face 5-seed Cincinnati. The game is scheduled for to tip at 2:15 p.m. on ESPN.

"Both teams are playing for a championship tomorrow," Kelvin Sampson said. "Not the automatic qualifier."

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