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2-seed Houston defeats 15-seed Cleveland State 87-56 in first round of 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship

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The Saxenian Family

UPDATED: March 20, 2021 --1:28 a.m. CT

POSTED: March 19, 2021 --11:45 p.m. CT

BLOOMINGTON, IN (Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall) -- The 2-seed Houston Cougars routed the 15-seed Cleveland State Vikings 87-56 in a first round match-up in the Midwest Region of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.

All-American, Quentin Grimes, scored 18 points to lead Houston. Houston had six players score in double-figures which had not happened since November 25, 2017.

Tramon Mark scored 15; Marcus Sasser scored 14; Fabian White scored 12; and Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham each scored 10 points.

Starting center, Reggie Chaney, added 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

Houston's 4s and 5s (Chaney, Gorham, Gresham and White) combined for 38 points (13 for 17 field goals, 12 for 14 free throws), 20 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots.

"We spent this week -- I spent an inordinate amount of time in practice with those guys," Kelvin Sampson, Houston Head Coach said after the game. "(Redshirt freshman) J'Wan Roberts, (true freshman) Kiyron Powell -- those two guys were guinea pigs a lot. They got the crap beat out of them a lot. Justin, Fabian, Reggie and Brison, I don't think we had much letup."

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Houston's biggest concern is the injury to senior point guard DeJon Jarreau. Jarreau injured his right hip very early in the first half; and, he did not return to the ball game. His absence shifted the guard rotation and changed roles and responsibilities for Grimes, Sasser, and Mark.

"Our kids were a little bit nervy, maybe staggered even when Dejon Jarreau went down," Coach Sampson said. "He's not only our starting point guard, but he's also our leader, emotional leader, leader on the floor. Does a lot of things for this team. He was tremendous over on the sideline in support of his teammates.

"Marcus and Quentin have been the recipients of a lot of DeJon's assists. Now they've become the primary ball handlers. They've had to kind of switch midstream, change things up. I thought once we got to halftime, we came out a lot more organized.

"During the course of the game, the first half, I didn't feel like we were as organized as we needed to be. But Tramon getting two fouls, we basically lost two starters. Dejon went down with an injury, Tramon got the second foul so early, then we're playing with guys that haven't played many minutes all year.

"Once we got to halftime, we said, Okay, here is what we're going to do defensively, here is what we're going to do offensively. Our four big guys, Brison Gresham, Reggie Chaney, Fabian White, and Justin Gorham, I thought they did a great job of controlling the backboards."

Houston led 37-29 at halftime. However, the Coogs blitzed the Vikings with a 12-2 to start the second half and stretch the lead to 49-31 with 15:58 on the game clock. Mark, Gorham, Grimes, and Sasser scored during the 12-2 blitz.

Cleveland State's Torrey Patton sank a three-point shot to end the 10-0 Houston run. Grimes sank a jumper before Patton split two free throws. Then, Houston responded with a 13-0 run to blow the game wide open. Six different players scored for Houston in the run.

After the game, Grimes said the message at halftime was simple: "We knew we had to come out there and kind of hit them in the mouth first; and, I feel like that's what we did. We got the lead and we got to play Cougar basketball which is getting stops and getting out there in transition."

Houston scored 1.515 points per possession and scored on 69.7% of its possessions in the second half.

Houston made 16 of 30 field goal attempts in the second 20 minutes and 14 of 20 from the free throw line. The Coogs outrebounded the Vikings 38-24 and outscored the Vikings 21-5 in second chance points.

The Saxenian Family

"Well, my hat is off to Coach Sampson and the University of Houston," Dennis Gates, Cleveland State Head Coach said during his opening postgame comments. "They did an unbelievable job. That's a 1 seed. I truly believe that team is a 1 seed. They can score the basketball in every which way possible. They score in three areas: on the free-throw line, behind the three-point line and in the paint. They do a great job defensively of not fouling.

"The game came down to second-chance points, which they scored 21 points off of. Then that run, we just couldn't stop their surge. So my hat is off to them.

"Our guys, we didn't play our very best, but that was because of the University of Houston. They put us in positions where we were playing on our heels."

Coach Kelvin Sampson concluded: "We were plus 14 on the boards tonight, 16 offensive rebounds. That's our identity. Quentin and Marcus started making some shots. A good win. This tournament is about win and advance. We're very fortunate. Very proud of my team for living to fight another day."


Houston's next game will be versus 10-seed Rutgers, Sunday, March 21, at 6:10 p.m. CT, inside Lucas Oil Stadium, in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.

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