INDIANAPOLIS — Houston overcame a blown 17-point lead to hold off Oregon State 67-61 on Monday night in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four for the first time in 37 years.
Quentin Grimes hit a 3-pointer with 3:21 left to break a 55-all tie. The second-seeded Cougars (28-3) spent the first half building a big lead behind a dominant defense, but they spent the second half hanging on as the 12th-seeded Beavers tried to add one more surprising result to a Midwest Region bracket beset by upsets.
Grimes’ 3 from near the top of the arc finally steadied the Cougars, and Houston knocked down enough free throws down the stretch while holding Oregon State without a basket during a critical 3 1/2 minutes.
That sent the Cougars on to the national semifinals to face Baylor.
It wasn’t always pretty, with Houston shooting 29% after halftime and 32% for the game. Yet it also exemplified the program’s rugged defense-first identity under Kelvin Sampson, who has led Houston to accomplishments it hadn’t matched since the famed “Phi Slama Jama” days of the 1980s.
Marcus Sasser scored 20 points to lead Houston while Grimes added 18. Fittingly, it was DeJon Jarreau — the American Athletic Conference’s defensive player of the year who led the effort that stymied Oregon State star Ethan Thompson — who was named the most outstanding player of the Midwest Region.
Jarreau finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists
This will be Houston’s first Final Four since Hakeem Olajuwon and coach Guy Lewis led the Cougars to the 1984 title game, in which they lost to Patrick Ewing and Georgetown.
Maurice Calloo scored 13 points to lead Oregon State (20-13), which was vying to become the worst-seeded team ever to make a Final Four — not to mention extend a remarkable postseason run for a team that was picked to finish last in the Pac-12.
BAYLOR 81, ARKANSAS 72
INDIANAPOLIS — Baylor reached the Final Four for the first time in 71 years, getting 22 points from MaCio Teague and a dominating defensive performance from Davion Mitchell to beat Arkansas.
The South Region final was a reunion of former Southwest Conference programs aiming to join another (Houston) in the Final Four.
The top-seeded Bears (26-2) had not been able to get over the Elite Eight hump in two previous tries under Scott Drew and appeared to be barreling toward a blowout.
The Razorbacks (25-7) revved up the Mus Bus after some early sputtering, trimming an 18-point lead down to four.
The Bears ran away from there, right into next weekend’s Final Four against the Cougars.
Mitchell led the stiff-arm charge as Arkansas missed 12 straight shots and Teague hit a pair of 3-pointers to put it out of reach.
JD Notae and Davonte Davis had 14 apiece for the Razorbacks, who came up one game short of their first Final Four in 26 years.
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