INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Quentin Grimes scored 14 points while Houston's defense locked down on surging Buddy Boeheim, helping the Cougars beat Syracuse 62-46 on Saturday night in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Justin Gorham had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Cougars, who pushed through to their first trip to a regional final in 37 years, earning a matchup with Oregon State for the Midwest Region title and a spot in the Final Four.
The Cougars also got a strong all-around effort from DeJon Jarreau, who finished with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists while leading the defensive effort that kept Boeheim in check — and ultimately derailed the 11th-seeded Orange's latest postseason push as a double-digit seed.
Houston (27-3) came in holding opponents to a national-low 37.3% shooting, and then harassed Syracuse (18-10) into just 28% (14 for 50), including a 5-for-23 performance from 3-point range.
The focus was making every look difficult for Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim's son, who had been on an absolute tear through four games in the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournament games to earn the nickname “Buddy Buckets."
The 6-foot-6 junior had averaged 28.3 points through those games, which included him shooting 60% from the floor and 55.8% from 3-point range.
Things weren’t nearly so easy Saturday.
Jarreau spent much of the night chasing Boeheim, hovering in his shadow on the perimeter, staying right on his hip on drives and swiping at the ball as Boeheim secured catches. Boeheim managed just one first-half basket and finished with 12 points on 3-for-13 shooting, including 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
And the Orange couldn't muster much of anything else, either.
As for Kelvin Sampson's Cougars, Houston shot just 38% and 7 for 26 from 3-point range. But they're off to the school's first regional final since reaching a second straight NCAA championship game in 1984 with Hakeem Olajuwon and coach Guy Lewis during the famed “Phi Slama Jama” era.
Syracuse: The Orange had beaten two higher-seeded opponents to reach the second weekend, first against sixth-seeded and 2019 finalist Texas Tech. Then came a second-round win against third-seeded West Virginia and 900-win coach Bob Huggins. With Boeheim rolling, Syracuse had shot at least 52% in each of those two games while also making 29 3-pointers — but there would be no repeat of that 2016 Final Four run as a double-digit seed thanks to Houston's defense.
Houston: The Cougars had no trouble in the first round against 15th-seeded Cleveland State, but needed a late comeback to push past 10th-seeded Rutgers and return to the Sweet 16. Houston closed that game on a 14-2 run, then had another strong finishing kick Saturday with a 9-0 run — beginning with a whistle-drawing jumper from Gorham and a free throw — that finally stretched out the lead to 60-43 with 2:17 left.
The Cougars advanced to Monday’s regional final to face 12th-seeded Oregon State. The Beavers beat eighth-seeded Loyola Chicago 65-58 earlier Saturday to emerge from the upset-riddled top half of the region bracket.
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