Fred Faour: Even without Sasser, these Cougars find ways to win

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13810981h) Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) and team staff attend to guard Marcus Sasser (0) after Sasser went down on the court against Cincinnati during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, in Fort Worth, Texas AAC Cincinnati Houston Basketball, Fort Worth, United States – 11 Mar 2023

Fred Faour: Even without Sasser, these Cougars find ways to win

Marcus Sasser was off the floor with what looked like a scary injury. J’Wan Roberts and Tramon Mark were on the bench with two fouls.

At one point, the lineup was Jamal Shead, freshman Jarace Walker, freshman Terrance Arceneaux, freshman Emmanuel Sharp, and sophomore Ja’Vier Francis on the floor.

And yet UH extended its lead to 38-23 at halftime in their AAC semifinal against Cincinnati. The Cougars would go on to win 69-48 and advance to the championship game thanks to a different group. Names you would not know unless you followed the team all year.

Everyone knows Sasser, and he should take the championship game off. He should rest and hopefully be ready for next week when the games count; because these Cougars are a true team. They attack every pass. They fight for every ball on the floor. They battle for every rebound.

Kelvin Sampson has built a physical, hustling program with a lot of talent. And players step up in the face of adversity. On Friday, Sasser was the only offense with 30 points. On Saturday, he left with four.

Shead, the glue point guard, stepped up with 16 points and nine assists. Walker scored 16, and Roberts added 16 a day after scoring zero. He did all of it while in foul trouble.

And everyone played defense. That’s what these Cougars do. And defense always travels. They make teams work for every basket. Opponents get very few freebies. It does not matter who is on the floor for Houston.

These Cougars hustle. They battle. And every game it is someone new stepping up. Who will it be in the championship? That remains to be seen. And while that game does not really matter (they will be a No. 1 seed regardless), and Sasser should rest for the NCAAs, whoever is on the floor is going to play hard and lock things down.

That’s what these Cougars do, even in adversity. They made the Elite Eight without Sasser a year ago. Can they do it again if this injury lingers? The easy answer is probably not. But then you watch these guys play, and you have faith. Different names on different days.

Same hustle. These Cougars are a true team, and the real test starts next week.

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