In a battle of two men who got their head coaching careers started in Montana, Kelvin Sampson and the No. 2 Houston Cougars topped Wayne Tinkle and No. 12 Oregon State 67-61 in the men's Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday evening.
Marcus Sasser led Houston with 20 points while Quentin Grimes added 18. DeJon Jarreau finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Cougars (28-3).
Sampson, who began his head coaching career at Montana Tech from 1981-85 and is in his seventh season coaching the Cougars, brings Houston back to the Final Four for the first time since 1984. It will be Sampson's second time in the Final Four after taking Oklahoma there in 2002.
Houston's defense was sharp from the start as the Cougars jumped out to a 34-17 lead at the halftime break. Despite shooting 12 for 34 from the field, the Cougars went 5 for 15 from deep and held OSU to just 7 for 20 from the field. The Cougars also out-rebounded the Beavers 8-1 on the offensive glass in the first half.
Houston led by as much as 45-29 with 13:25 to go in the game, but Oregon State rallied back furiously to tie it 55-55 after Gianni Hunt knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:48 to play. Grimes quickly responded with a triple, and the Cougars never trailed again down the stretch.
Rebounds proved to be the difference, especially down the stretch, as the Cougars finished with a 41-29 advantage on the boards, including 19 offensive rebounds. Houston finished shooting 32.3% (20 for 62) from the field and went 11 for 32 from deep and committed just eight turnovers to OSU's 10. Oregon State finished shooting 46.8% (22 for 47) from the field and 6 for 16 from deep and 11 for 20 from the free throw line. Maurice Calloo led the Beavers with 13 points.
Tinkle, a former Montana Griz player and UM's men's basketball head coach from 2006-14, sees his Beavers end the season 20-13. After getting picked to finish in last place in the Pac-12 Conference, Oregon State began the year 11-11 but stirred a furious late-season run beginning with the program's first-ever Pac-12 tournament championship to get into the NCAA Tournament.
A No. 12 seed in the tournament, Oregon State got wins over No. 5 Tennessee, No. 4 Oklahoma State and No. 8 Loyola-Chicago to advance to the program's first Elite Eight since 1982.
Houston will take No. 1-seeded Baylor in the Final Four on Saturday.