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Houston builds big lead before OSU rallies, but Cougars ramp up their defense and win NCAA Elite Eight game 67-61.

COURTESY PHOTOS: NCAA PHOTOS - Maurice Calloo and the Oregon State Beavers had their hands full with Houston, but the Beavers rallied only to lose 67-61 in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region final.Down by 17 points to Houston, it didn't look good for Oregon State.

But, whereas a lot of people watching might have counted them out, the Beavers didn't count themselves out and put on a gallant rally only to fall short of their bid to make the NCAA Tournament Final Four.

Oregon State rallied to tie the game, but the second-seeded Cougars surged and held on, ramping up the defense at crunch time and beating the 12th-seeded Beavers 67-61 Monday in a Midwest Region final game at Indianapolis, Indiana.

COURTESY PHOTO: NCAA PHOTOS - The win was in danger against Oregon State, but Houston pulled it out."It got close and coach told us to stay tough and poised," Houston's Quentin Grimes told CBS after the game.

The Beavers' stupendous postseason run, which included a Pac-12 tournament championship and three thrilling NCAA wins, ends in the Elite Eight and short of the school's first Final Four appearance since 1963. Houston (28-3) moves on.

But, Oregon State (20-13) sure fought hard, despite never leading after establishing leads for much of the previous three NCAA games. The Beavers trailed 34-17 at halftime after shooting .350 from the field, making 1 of 6 3-pointers and committing eight turnovers. Houston put on an offensive rebound display starting in the first half — and finished the game with 19 (with a 38-27 overall rebounding advantage).

COURTESY PHOTO: NCAA PHOTOS - Ethan Thompson had a tough time offensively, defending by DeJon Jarreau, but he made some big baskets late in the loss.Warith Alatishe broke a nearly six-minute field goal drought for OSU early in the second half, but Houston still led 42-27 after Marcus Sasser's 3-pointer. (Houston's leading scorer would then get injured and sit out much of the second half).

"You've got to give credit to Houston," Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. "They kind of came out and punched us a little bit, and we weren't able to get back."

Tinkle said his team reacted to Houston's defensive pressure in the first half by reverting to some mistakes that hurt the Beavers early in the year, "where their pressure kind of -- you know, we went a little bit too much one-on-one. We lost a little bit of that trust that we built, and in the second half, we got it back with our defensive effort."

The Beavers rallied, and it was impressive.

Ethan Thompson, defended well all night by DeJon Jarreau, made his first field goal with 12:29 left, and Maurice Calloo's free throws made it 52-42 with about eight minutes left. It got closer.

Thompson hit two free throws. He drove for a basket. Roman Silva scored off an offensive rebound. Gianni Hunt drove for points. Alatishe dunked. And, after a 3-pointer by Houston was waved off because it came after the shot clock expired, Hunt tied the game with a 3-pointer with 3:43 left. It was 55-55.

COURTESY PHOTO: NCAA PHOTOS - Houston won the game largely due to its defense and rebounding.But Grimes, the American Athletic Conference player of the year, canned a 3-pointer after a Houston offensive rebound. Thompson's free throw made it 58-56, Houston leading, with 2:48 left, but two more Cougars' offensive rebounds led to two Grimes free throws with 2:22 on the clock.

The Beavers wouldn't score again until 21 seconds remained, missing two shots and committing two turnovers (Thompson lost footing and got tied up by Jarreau, and Hunt simply lost the ball out of bounds). Houston added four more free throws to extend the margin to eight points.

Thompson had 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but he went 3 of 12 from the field (0 of 2 3-pointers) and 5 of 8 at the free-throw line. The Beavers went 11 of 20 at the free-throw line. The Beavers had only two second-half turnovers and shot better as they rallied to make it close.

Houston's astounding offensive rebounding gave the Cougars more shot attempts, although they shot only .323. They had five more 3-pointers than OSU, meaning 15 more points from long distance, and five more points than the Beavers scored on free throws.

Sasser had 20 points, Grimes 18 points and Jarreau 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for Houston.

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