Houston holds off No. 11 seed Syracuse to reach first Elite Eight since Phi Slama Jama

Jack Baer
·Writer
·2 min read

Houston is headed to the Elite Eight, and you'd need to go back to the days of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler for the last time that was true.

The No. 2-seeded Cougars beat No. 11 seed Syracuse, 62-46, in the Sweet 16 on Saturday to book their trip to the Midwest regional final, where they will face yet another double-digit seed, No. 12 seed Oregon State.

With the exception of a brief stretch in the first half, Houston was in control for most of the game. Syracuse never cut the lead to fewer than seven points in the final 10 minutes, while Houston was doing stuff like this:

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Junior guard Quintin Grimes led the Cougars with 14 points while also chipping in four rebounds and three steals. DeJon Jarreau might have been the most valuable player, with nine points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

It wasn't the prettiest game (a leading scorer with 14 points is a good clue there), with Houston only shooting 38.3%. Fortunately, Syracuse was even worse from the field at 28% (and 5-of-23 from deep).

Houston's advance to the Elite Eight is the farthest it has reached in March Madness since 1984, when the program's famous Phi Slama Jama team led by Olajuwon and Drexler reached the championship game. Houston went more than three decades without winning another NCAA tournament game, but its fortunes have changed under Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars won a tournament game in 2018, reached the Sweet 16 in 2019 and have now reached the Elite Eight in 2021.

To reach the Final Four, Houston will have to defeat one of the tournament's biggest Cinderellas, Oregon State. It's been a historically easy path for Houston so far in the tournament, but that wouldn't make a Final Four any less sweet.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 27: Brison Gresham #55 of the Houston Cougars reacts after scoring against the Syracuse Orange in the first half of their Sweet Sixteen game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 27, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Houston bulldozed its way into the Elite Eight. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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