Men's Basketball Sports

Cougars end 34 year drought with win over Aztecs

Senior guard Rob Gray had a career high 39 points to lead the Cougars over the Aztecs. Richard Fletcher Jr./The Cougar

Thirty four years ago, the Houston Cougars defeated the Virginia Cavaliers and headed to the 1984 NCAA championship game where the Hakeem Olajuwon-led team lost in the finals to Georgetown.

Since 1984, the Cougars have lost every NCAA tournament game they played, until tonight.

The Cougars hung on to defeat the San Diego State Aztecs 67-65 to end the long dry spell and move on to the next round of the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams played with a fast pace, but it came with a cost as the two teams combined for nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes.

There were six lead changes in the first ten minutes, but Houston cleaned up their play to take the lead in the last ten. The Cougars only turned over the ball one more time in the half while the Aztecs racked up another five.

The cleaner play helped the Cougars go on a 20-9 run to end the half with a 10 point lead to go into the half up 39 to 29.

Gray shot 54.5 percent accuracy with a pair of threes to lead the team with 16 points in the first half.

The two teams started the second half by trading twos and three back and forth until the Aztecs made some adjustments.

The much bigger San Diego squad were trying to make jumpers and threes instead of using their size to drive into the paint and out muscle the smaller Cougars.

Once San Diego started taking the ball into the paint, they started to cut away at Houston’s lead.

The Cougars’ discipline broke down and fouls came often as they tried to stop the bigger Aztecs eventually putting them into the bonus with 13 minutes remaining in the game.

But the Aztecs did not fully capitalize on these opportunities as they finished the game making 21 of 35 free throws, most of which came in the second half. 

Due to the missed free throws, Houston’s lead hovered around five points for most of the second half until the heart pounding final minutes.

San Diego’s junior guard Devin Watson tied the game with a three pointer and Gray responded with a three pointer of his own to take back the lead.

Watson nailed a second three pointer to tie the game up with 36 seconds to go. Gray held the ball up as time ticked down, then made his move.

San Diego managed to get one final shot off, but it bounced off the rim and the Cougars won the game.

Gray ended the game with 39 points and scored 23 of Houston’s 28 points in the second half in the performance of the NCAA tournament so far.

March Madness continues for the Cougars on Saturday when they face the winner of Michigan versus Montana.

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