EditorsNote: 3rd graf, correct play-by-play; 7th graf, change scoring drought to field goal drought
Quentin Grimes scored 23 points and Tramon Mark added 18 as the No. 10 Houston Cougars rode a second-half rally to a 77-67 victory over visiting South Carolina on Saturday minus their leading scorer and coach.
Houston was without injured guards Marcus Sasser, the Cougars' leading scorer, and American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year Caleb Mills, as well as coach Kelvin Sampson, who was unavailable due to COVID-related issues.
But following a ragged first half offensively, the Cougars went on a 14-2 run early in the second half.
Grimes scored 19 points in the second half and finished 14-for-15 from the free-throw line with seven rebounds. His three free throws with 7:57 left gave the Cougars (4-0) their first double-digit lead at 62-52. Mark finished 9 of 12 from the line to offset 4-of-12 shooting.
DeJon Jarreau kept Houston afloat early before fouling out with 11 points and eight boards.
Justin Minaya paced the Gamecocks (1-2) with 13 points. Jermaine Couisnard and Keyshawn Bryant added 10 each.
The Cougars struggled mightily without Mills and Sasser in the first half, enduring an 8:51 field goal drought while falling behind 20-13. Houston misfired on 11 consecutive field goals during that woeful stretch, while the Gamecocks relied on several contributors to seize the lead.
Jalyn McCreary gave South Carolina a 12-10 lead by scoring through a foul, and Couisnard and Minaya drilled consecutive 3s within 25 seconds of one another that capped an 8-0 run and stretched the Gamecocks' lead to 20-13. But suddenly, Jarreau came to the Cougars' rescue.
Jarreau scored nine consecutive points for Houston, including a 3-pointer that snapped an 0-for-8 start from behind the arc for the Cougars. His jumper at the 5:27 mark cut the deficit to 24-22, and Houston closed the first half with three consecutive field goals to close to within one point before TJ Moss sank a 3 for the Gamecocks, who carried a 35-31 lead into intermission.
Minaya and Moss scored eight points apiece in the first half, while Couisnard and McCreary chipped in six each for South Carolina, which outrebounded Houston 24-20 with eight offensive boards. The Cougars shot 1 for 13 on 3s prior to the break, with Grimes and Mark going 0 for 8.
--Field Level Media