Quentin Grimes leads No. 11 Houston into duel vs. Tulane

NCAA Basketball

Quentin Grimes sensed it was go time in his team’s last outing and he’ll look to produce another solid performance when No. 11 Houston hosts Tulane in American Athletic Conference play Saturday.

The leading scorer for the Cougars made just 1 of 6 shots in the first half Wednesday night when Wichita State carved out a 31-25 halftime lead. The second half was a different story, as Grimes erupted for 20 of his team-high 22 points in a 70-63 American Athletic Conference home win.

“I knew in the second half that I needed to assert myself and be in attack mode at all times to get us going,” Grimes said.

Grimes and the Cougars will try to get into attack mode from the get-go against Tulane as they aim to improve to 7-0 at home.

Slow starts and fast finishes have been a winning formula for Houston (9-1, 4-1) the last two games. After trailing 33-32 Sunday night at the half against SMU, the Cougars scored the first 10 points of the second half and never looked back in a 74-60 decision.

When Wichita State grabbed a 10-point advantage early in the second half on Wednesday evening, Houston’s response was to rattle off 16 consecutive points. The Shockers went more than seven minutes without scoring.

“Our defense was so good in the second half,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We were really, really good, and we guarded them. We always play good defense. That’s why we’re ranked in the top 10 defensive teams in the nation.”

Houston’s offense comes and goes, but with a top 10 defense in scoring (57.0 points per game) and opponents’ 3-point percentage (25.4), it can afford the occasional dry spell. Grimes (18.1 points) and Marcus Sasser (14.9) are the top weapons, but the Cougars have gotten consecutive double-doubles from Justin Gorham, who went for 11 points and 19 boards at SMU and then turned in a 14-10 effort against Wichita State.

Meanwhile, Tulane (6-2, 1-2) has been idle for a week and will be playing just its second game in 18 days. The Green Wave are coming off a 60-56 conference win on Jan. 2 against East Carolina, avenging a December 10-point loss to the Pirates.

Second-year coach Ron Hunter is gradually building a program that couldn’t find its way under former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy. Tulane is already halfway to last season’s win total of 12, and the way it’s winning is pleasing Hunter.

The Green Wave led wire-to-wire against East Carolina, getting a game-high 20 points from sophomore guard Jaylen Forbes. That boosted his average to 15.9 points per game, and Forbes also gets the job done on defense. He added a career-high five steals to his offense in the team’s first conference win.

“Defensively, we just keep getting better and better,” Hunter said. “This team is growing up right before our eyes.”

Jordan Walker (12.4) and Gabe Watson (10.3) also average in double figures for Tulane, which as a team makes only 39.1 percent from the field. It has allowed opponents only 60.8 points per game, but has been outrebounded by 2.3 per game, which could be problematic against an excellent rebounding team like Houston.

–Field Level Media

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