Thu, 21 Jan 2021

No. 14 Texas Tech, No. 17 Houston hunt early statement win

Field Level Media
29 Nov 2020, 11:40 GMT+10

Now things get a little more interesting for Texas Tech and Houston.

With two effective tuneups under their belts, the two old foes are set to accelerate their seasons against each other at Sunday at Fort Worth in an early season matchup of ranked teams.

The 14th-ranked Red Raiders (2-0) and No. 17 Cougars (2-0) sandwiched solid victories around their Thanksgiving Day feasts to prepare for a series that dates back to when both had runs atop the Southwest Conference.

For Texas Tech, the jump up in competition is a little steeper after manhandling two Southland Conference opponents (Northwestern State and Sam Houston State) and scoring 185 total points in doing so. Houston, which also played a Southland Conference team (Lamar) in its opener, upped the ante in its second game this season while earning a 68-58 victory against Boise State of the Mountain West.

The Red Raiders follow their neutral-site game against the Cougars with a home game vs. St. John's on Thursday as part of the Big 12-Big East Battle.

"We're about to get into this next season, these two games -- Houston and St. John's," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "We're going to learn a lot about our team through great competition."

What the Red Raiders have learned through their first two outings is that Georgetown transfer Mac McClung gives them a dynamic scorer who has transitioned well from the Big East to West Texas.

McClung has paced Texas Tech in scoring in both games with 20 and 18 points while playing only 20 minutes in each. He is 13-for-21 from the floor, 4 of 6 from 3-point range, 8 of 8 from the free-throw line and has not turned the ball over.

"I think his teammates are passing him the ball and screening for him," Beard said. "He's not forcing anything. He's trusting the offense, he's trusting his teammates, he's trusting himself."

Trust is something UH guard Quentin Grimes has established since he wound up at the Cougars' doorstep two years ago.

A former five-star recruit, Grimes spent his freshman season at traditional powerhouse Kansas and had moments of success. But he and the Jayhawks parted ways and Grimes came home to Houston. He was a solid scoring option as a sophomore with 12.1 points per game and is coming off a 25-point performance against Boise State and played a key role in helping the Cougars charge to a big first-half lead.

With Boise State sticking close, Houston caught fire with Grimes as the spark: He scored 15 points to help the Cougars take a 34-19 lead at the break, hitting 6 of 7 field goals along the way.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me," Grimes said. "I was just in attack mode."

Grimes has a strong wingman in Marcus Sasser, a name familiar in Texas Tech circles. Sasser's uncle, Jason Sasser, starred for the Red Raiders from 1992-96 and was the Southwest Conference Player of the Year during a stretch when Texas Tech supplanted Houston as that league's best team.

Sasser pumped in 25 points in the season opener.

As prolific as those two have been as scorers, defense has been the foundation so far for the Cougars, especially in the first half.

Houston's two foes shot a combined 35.6 percent (36 of 101) overall and each made just one 3-pointer in 29 total attempts. The Cougars have surrendered 15 and 19 points in the first half when Lamar and Boise State shot 20.0 and 28.7 percent, respectively.

--Field Level Media

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