No. 2 Houston Beats Buddy Boeheim, No. 11 Syracuse, Advances to Elite Eight

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIMarch 28, 2021

Houston forward Fabian White Jr. (35), Quentin Grimes (24), Marcus Sasser (0), Justin Gorham (4) and DeJon Jarreau (3) gather as Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim (35) stands by in the second half of a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 27, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

For the first time since 1984, the No. 2 Houston Cougars are heading back to the Elite Eight after knocking off No. 11 Syracuse, 62-46, in the Sweet Sixteen on Saturday. 

The Orange had been on an improbable run through the NCAA tournament thanks to two spectacular performances from Buddy Boeheim last weekend. That finally came to an end as Quentin Grimes and Houston sliced through Syracuse's zone defense and took Boeheim out of his rhythm. 

Houston will now face No. 12 Oregon State for a berth in the Final Four after the Beavers upset Loyola Chicago, 65-58, earlier on Saturday.


Notable Performers

Quentin Grimes, G, Houston Cougars: 14 points, 4 rebounds 3 steals

DeJon Jarreau, G, Houston Cougars: 9 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists

Buddy Boeheim, G, Syracuse Orange: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 three-pointer

Quincy Guerrier, F, Syracuse Orange: 8 points, 5 rebounds


Syracuse Offense Goes Ice Cold

At least Syracuse's season ended on its own terms. 

It wasn't because Houston made Jim Boeheim's patented zone defense look suspect, it wasn't because the Orange couldn't get off their preferred shots and it wasn't because of foul trouble. 

Syracuse had its shots against the No. 2 team in the Midwest region. Most of them missed.

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Houston’s ball movement = 💯 @UHCougarMBK #MarchMadness https://t.co/mZeWmMplm2

The Orange made just six of 24 field goal attempts in the first half—1-of-10 from behind the arc—with Buddy Boeheim unable to find any sort of rhythm. Without the team's top guard knocking down jumpers, Syracuse was going to need an all-time effort from the rest of its lineup on both sides of the ball.

Rarely did that turn out to be the case. In the moments that the Orange did appear to pressure the Cougars, Houston came right back with a run of their own to keep Syracuse at arms-length for most of the night. 

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This angle of Houston’s alley oop 😤 (via @marchmadness) https://t.co/I1ILSZtDRK

After Houston raced out to a 10-point lead in the first half, the Orange came right back with a 15-3 run to tie things up at 20 only a few minutes before halftime. Then the Cougars punched right back with their own run to rebuild a 10-point lead at the break.

Buddy Boeheim didn't make his first three-pointer until 4:30 into the second half and by then the Cougars were rolling.

The Orange finished the season shooting 14-of-50 (5-of-23 from three) against Houston. Even with a week to prepare there was little Jim Boeheim could do if the shots weren't falling. 

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Grimes Leads Houston To Elite Eight

Quentin Grimes had been the motor behind Houston's offense all season. 

Early on in Saturday's matchup the Cougars would have to figure out how to build up a lead without him.

Two quick fouls over the first seven minutes of the game put Grimes on the bench with just three points as Houston worked to keep the Orange from heating up behind the arc. 

Grimes' teammates did just that, ensuring his stint on the sideline wouldn't prove killer to their Elite Eight chances and clearing the floor for him to dominate in the second half. 

The Texas native obliged. After posting six points in the first half, Grimes took off over the final frame to finish with 14 points and bring his school within one win from its first Final Four appearance since Phi Slama Jama patrolled campus in the 1980s. 

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Quentin Grimes from WAY outside https://t.co/W2ZTkVbWLB

Grimes entered college basketball as one of the top recruits in the nation, but failed to live up to his potential in his lone season with the Kansas Jayhawks. It took transferring home to Houston, and a few years under head coach Kelvin Sampson, before he finally showed he was capable of leading a team through the NCAA tournament. 

It was more than worth the wait for the Cougars who find themselves dominating on college basketball's biggest stage.


What's Next

Houston will take on No. 12 Oregon State in the Elite Eight on Monday at 7:15 p.m. ET at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.