Axios Houston

Newsletter branding image

🤠 Happy "Cowboy Carter" day to all who celebrate.

☀️ Today's weather: Sunny with a high of 77.

🐦‍⬛ Sounds like: "Blackbiird" by Beyoncé.

🎂 Happy birthday to our Axios Houston member Jim Liberatore!

Today's newsletter is 938 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: 🏀 Cougars in the Sweet 16

Ready for anything. Photo: Joe Murphy/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The No. 1-seed Houston Cougars men's basketball team is running full steam ahead into tonight's Sweet 16 matchup with the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils.

Why it matters: A win tonight could be redemption for the Coogs after losing in the round of 16 to the Miami Hurricanes last year.

Catch up quick: The Cougars plowed to victory in the first two rounds of this year's tournament, including winning an overtime thriller last weekend against the Texas A&M Aggies to advance to the Sweet 16.

Flashback: The team has been on a postseason tear since 2018, including back-to-back No. 1-seed berths in the 2023 and 2024 tournaments.

  • They made it to the Final Four in 2021 and to the Elite Eight in 2022.

What they're saying: "The guys before us created a steppingstone, and we just tagged along and continued their legacy," senior guard Jamal Shead told The Daily Cougar. "I am excited I get to play another week with my guys. I want to play with them as long as I can."

Meanwhile, the Coogs have their work cut out for them against Duke.

  • While the Blue Devils struggle defensively, their weapons on offense make them a threat, according to The Athletic.
  • The winner faces the winner of Marquette and N.C. State on Sunday.

How to watch: Tipoff is at 8:40pm at Dallas' American Airlines Center.

  • The game will be broadcast on CBS and streamed on Paramount+.
  • Plus, the University of Houston is hosting an official watch party at downtown's Avenida Houston. Festivities start at 7pm.

Share with a basketball fan

2. Pro-Palestinian protesters disrupt Ted Cruz

The protesters in River Oaks, outside U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's house. Photo: Jay R. Jordan/Axios

Every Saturday morning over the past two months, pro-Palestinian protesters have gathered outside Ted Cruz's house in River Oaks to condemn the Republican senator's support for Israel.

The big picture: Demonstrators have regularly taken to the streets, called and emailed their elected officials, and spoken up at City Hall, and they're now disrupting spaces where their elected politicians are present, urging them to call for a ceasefire and cut ties with Israel.

Driving the news: Cruz has posted on X a couple of times to complain about the disruption, calling the protesters "pro-Hamas" and "antisemites."

  • His office did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

What they're saying: "The point is to show that he does have constituents that don't align with his very bigoted views. … We don't support him being AIPAC-funded and his allegiance to a foreign government," said one of the regular protesters, whose aunt's family in Gaza has been killed and who asked not to be named for safety concerns.

  • "We never mentioned anything about Hamas at these protests," she added.

Between the lines: Houston does not have rules preventing protests in residential areas, per Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. Protesters are allowed on the sidewalk and street as long as they do not block access.

  • Protesters must remain below specified decibel levels, per the city's noise ordinance. However, officers are required to ask individuals to lower the noise before issuing citations, Houston Police Department public information officer John Cannon told Axios.

What we're watching

3. 🤠 Beyoncé's "Cowboy Carter" has arrived

Beyoncé at the launch of her hair care line in Los Angeles in February. Photo: Julian Dakdouk/Parkwood Media/WireImage via Parkwood

Beyoncé's highly anticipated new album, "Cowboy Carter," has officially dropped.

Why it matters: Queen Bey's latest offering isn't her first foray into country music, but it's her lengthiest country production to date and provides a spotlight on Black influences in the genre.

  • And, boy, does it have potential to break the internet.

Driving the news: The 27-song track list includes singles "Texas Hold 'Em" and "16 Carriages" as well as covers of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and The Beatles' "Blackbird."

  • The two singles were released in February and have already garnered hundreds of millions of plays on Spotify. "Texas Hold 'Em" also reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs, making Beyoncé the first Black woman to top the chart.

The big picture: "Cowboy Carter" is one of several country music drops anticipated this year from artists who traditionally perform other genres.

💭 Jay's thought bubble: I'm most excited about "Blackbiird," as Beyoncé spells it on the album.

  • Paul McCartney wrote the song to give hope to those fighting for civil rights in the 1960s.

How to celebrate: The roller rink at downtown's Discovery Green is hosting a listening party from 8pm-10pm tonight.

4. Bayou Buzz

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🛴 Residents in downtown Houston are calling for more enforcement of motorized scooter restrictions. (Houston Public Media)

🏫 Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring higher education institutions to revise free speech policies to include the definition of "antisemitism" and establish and enforce punishments for violating those policies. He singled out pro-Palestinian groups. (Texas Tribune)

🛣️ State highway officials took the first step yesterday to end the Texas 288 Toll Lanes 50-year deal less than nine years into it. (Houston Chronicle)

5. 🍨 Sweet Times: Blue Bell's new flavor

Photo: Gregory Castillo/Axios

👋 Greg here! I'm the new Axios Texas social host, and I wanted to test if Blue Bell's new Gooey Butter Cake lives up to the hype.

Dig in: The limited-edition Gooey Butter Cake seems to be the most-hyped ice cream flavor I've seen — and for good reason.

My thoughts: It's the ultimate birthday-cake ice-cream flavor. Big chunks of butter cake and a rich cream cheese swirl create a velvety texture. This flavor reminds me of Cold Stone or Marble Slab Creamery.

Go deeper: Check out Axios Texas on Instagram for a full review. This week, we tested every flavor of bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes (based in Texas) to help you choose which bundtlet to bring to Easter brunch.

Thanks to Bob Gee for editing and Khalid Adad and Yasmeen Altaji for copy editing this newsletter.

🍦 Shafaq wants to try the Gooey Butter Cake flavor now.

🐮 Jay is still waiting for Blue Bell to release pint-sized versions of its limited-edition Southern Blackberry Cobbler flavor.