By Owen Kaelble | @OwenKaelble
Sports Capital Journalism Program
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Junior forward Reggie Chaney Jr. and junior guard Quentin Grimes each had two different roles for the University of Houston Cougars on Friday night, and all of them were executed effectively. played to perfection. Chaney’s function was to keep the possessions going by attacking the glass and Grimes’ was simple, just score.
The two upperclassmen combined for 24 points and 11 rebounds, with Chaney having four blocks and Grimes four assists. The duo’s efforts helped Houston beat the Cleveland State Vikings 87-56 to advance, and they will face No. 10 seed Rutgers on Sunday.
Their performances were especially important after starting redshirt senior guard DeJon Jarreau went to the floor with a hip injury after the first possession of the game and did not re-enter. Jarreau was recently honored as the Defensive Player of the Year for the American Athletic Conference. Entering the game, Jarreau was first on the team in assists, third on the team in scoring and third in rebounds. He is also the emotional leader of the team, according to both head coach Kelvin Sampson and Grimes.
“Everyone knows DeJon is our leader, he’s our connector, he’s our coach that’s on the floor,” said Grimes.
Sampson realized the strength it took for his team to come back from the injury of Jarreau and compete.
“DeJon has been our most valuable player,” Sampson said. “Quentin’s been our best player but our most valuable player in the last month for sure has been DeJon so doing that without him I think will give these kids some confidence going forward.”
The Cougars (25-3) pulled away in the second half by a mixture of rebounding, defense and long scoring runs. After both teams traded free throws, the Cougars went on a 10-0 run. Then, just over two minutes later they had a 13-0 run and the score was 64-35, after only being an eight-point game at the half. Both runs included a 3-pointer for Grimes. Houston forced nine turnovers in the second half and held the Vikings (19-8) to only five field goals and a shooting percentage of 26.3%.
“First half we had some mishaps with the scouting report and everything but the second half we were locked in and we played Cougar basketball,” said Grimes.
Grimes and Chaney were far from the only players that contributed to the Houston win. Sophomore guard Marcus Sasser had 14 points, freshman guard Tramon Mark had 15 and junior forward Fabian White Jr. had 12 points off the bench.
“Our team tonight was good, everybody had a role to play and I thought our kids did a great job of playing their role,” said Sampson, who tied John Wooden on career victories with his 664th win, and is now No. 38 all-time. This was also Sampson’s first game at Assembly Hall since resigning as Indiana’s head coach in 2008.
For Houston, this performance compared to its conference play in the American Athletic Conference and the regular season overall. The Cougars led their conference by only allowing 57.9 points per game and led in offense as well with 77.6 points per game.