Houston suffers loss to UConn in road finale, now trail Tulsa for No. 1 spot in AAC
No. 21 Houston fell to the UConn Huskies 77-71 in the road finale of the regular season on Thursday evening in Connecticut.
The Cougars are now tied with the Bearcats at 12-5, and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane are all alone as the No. 1 team in the conference at 13-4 with one game remaining for all three teams.
Sophomore guard Quentin Grimes busted out of a scoring slump against UConn, scoring 24 points in the loss. He had not scored in double figures since Feb. 12 against South Florida. The Woodlands native has also had to deal with a hip pointer injury in the last couple of weeks.
At one point, Grimes scored seven straight points, which helped the Cougars close out the first half on a 10-0 run and have a seven-point lead at the break, but it was not enough as the Huskies came out of the break with intensity and regained the lead on 15-7 run and forced the Cougars to play catchup for most of the period.
Redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills had 20 points.
Senior guard Christian Vital had a strong performance in his final home game as a member of the Huskies, scoring 26 points and iced the game by hitting all eight of his free throws when Houston tried to extend the game.
Freshman guard James Bouknight also had a strong game with 17 points and seven rebounds.
The road struggles for the Cougars have been an issue for the team all season long during the conference games, and head coach Kelvin Sampson believes the reason for it has to do with inexperience of the players.
“The thing I like about this team, and it drives me nuts, is that I have no idea game to game how certain guys are going to play,” Sampson said after practice earlier in the week. “They are not made up that way, but that’s because they are not seniors.”
Freshman guard Marcus Sasser struggled all evening long, scoring only two points on one of 12 shooting from the field and did not make a single 3-pointer in the game. He took seven of them.
The Cougars are no longer in control of their own destiny to finish No. 1 in The American as they will need the Golden Hurricane to lose to Wichita State on Sunday afternoon for a chance at clinching the conference outright.
The Cincinnati Bearcats can also become a factor for the No. 1 spot if it defeats Temple as there is a possibility for a three-way tie if Tulsa loses and Houston wins.
Houston ends the season at home on Sunday morning against Memphis.