Grimes leads Houston to 76-56 victory over South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Not everything’s come easily for Quentin Grimes at Houston.

In fact, Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson had to remind his young, rising star what color his teammates were wearing. “He kept throwing to the other team,” Sampson said of Grimes’ seven turnovers.

Grimes more than made up for that with 24 points as Houston opened fast and kept pushing forward for its third straight victory in a 76-56 win over South Carolina on Sunday.

Grimes is a 6-foot-5 transfer sophomore from Kansas who is making himself essential to the Cougars (5-2) this season.

“It’s a big one for us coming in for a road win against the SEC,” Grimes said.

Nate Hinton added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, which quickly took control of the first meeting between the schools in 29 seasons.

The Cougars started with a 7-0 burst and rarely let up.

The team’s leading scorer at 16.8 points a game coming in, Grimes had 16 of his points in the second half as the Cougars maintained a double-digit lead throughout.

“We just stayed in attack mode,” Grimes said. “We didn’t want to let our foot come up off the gas.”

Grimes went for 20 or more points in his second straight game and the third time in Houston’s past five contests.

Hinton helped Houston build its large lead, hitting two of his three 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the opening half as the Cougars went into the break ahead 39-27.

The built the margin to 15 points just three minutes into the second half on Grimes’ basket from beyond the arc.

The Gamecocks (6-4) could not respond in losing for the third time in the past five games.

Houston started with a 7-0 burst and increased that edge throughout the opening half.

The Gamecocks cut things to 14-12 on Justin Minaya’s 3-pointer 10 minutes before the half. That’s when the Cougars closed the period with a 25-15 surge to take a 12-point lead at the break.

Houston’s relentless attack had South Carolina on its heels much of the period. The Gamecocks struggled to find points, going 10 of 33 from the field (30.3%) and just 2 of 6 on foul shots.

Nate Hinton had 17 points, all but four coming in the first half, and 11 rebounds for the Cougars.

Maik Kotsar had 12 points and A.J. Lawson had 10 for South Carolina, which has lost three of its past five games.

“They came at us and we couldn’t respond,” said Kotsar, a senior. “We need to be better at responding and that comes down to (player) leadership.”

BIG PICTURE

Houston: The Cougars improved to 3-4 against Southeastern Conference opponents in coach Kelvin Sampson’s six seasons. They face another Power Five opponent in Oklahoma State later this month before a trip to the Diamond Head Classic that features Georgia Tech of the ACC and Washington of the Pac 12.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks got off to a rough start of a very crucial stretch. They face rival Clemson next week before playing at defending national champion Virginia. South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament chances have been hampered by non-conference struggles the past few seasons and they had looked to this sequence as essential to returning to the game’s premiere event this March.

LAWSON’S STRUGGLES

South Carolina’s leading returning scorer this season in A.J. Lawson is struggling with his defense and coach Frank Martin says he won’t put him on the court if things don’t improve. “I didn’t play Michael Beasley (at Kansas State) when he didn’t defend. I’m not going to play A.J. Lawson when he doesn’t defend,” Martin said.

UP NEXT

Houston returns home to play Texas-Arlington on Wednesday night.

South Carolina will play at rival Clemson on Sunday.

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