Houston Cougars basketball cruises past Cincinnati, advances to AAC title game as Sasser injury looms

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13810981g) Houston guard Marcus Sasser (0) brings the ball up the court past Cincinnati guard David DeJulius (5) 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

Houston Cougars basketball cruises past Cincinnati, advances to AAC title game as Sasser injury looms

FORT WORTH — The Houston Cougars basketball team came out locked in from the first second in its American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals game against Cincinnati on Saturday. UH defeated the Bearcats, 69-48.

After being held to just seven offensive rebounds against East Carolina, the Cougars (31-2) got two on their first two possessions. It set the tone for the game as they looked to be swarming all over the court both on offense and defense for much of the night.

The game took a different turn for Houston, however, toward the seven-minute mark in the first half. Senior guard Marcus Sasser was looking to crossover to his left, but when he planted his foot, he fell to the floor and stayed down.

He immediately grabbed his left thigh and groin area in visible pain. Despite getting off the floor and walking to Houston’s bench, the Dallas native did not return to the game. Houston officially listed Sasser with a groin injury.

Despite not having Sasser on the floor for most of the game, UH built a 16-point lead against Cincinnati in the first half.

Houston found success in the paint against the Bearcats, outscoring Cincinnati 38-12. Junior forward J’Wan Roberts and freshman forward Jarace Walker excelled with hook shots in the paint. Roberts ended the game with 16 points and eight rebounds. Walker had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Cincinnati made a run to begin the second half and pulled within nine points of Houston. The Cougars answered with an 8-0 run, capped off by a 3-pointer from junior guard Jamal Shead.

Houston’s freshman guards Emanuel Sharp and Terrance Arceneaux stepped in due to the absence of Sasser. Arceneaux started the second half for the Cougars with Sasser out. He ended the game with four points. Sharp had two points.

Roberts had a rim-rattling dunk as the time ticked under the five-minute mark in the second half. Cincinnati began pressuring Houston full court. The Cougars handled the Bearcats’ press, and it was Shead who found Roberts under the basket for the slam.

Shead was a part of another highlight reel play after the three-minute mark of the game. The point guard got into Cincinnati’s paint and lobbed a pass to Walker, who caught it and threw it down the basket to finish the alley-oop slam.

Shead had 16 points and nine assists against the Bearcats. Redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark had eight points and five rebounds.

The Houston Cougars basketball team will play the winner of Memphis and Tulane on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. The game will be shown on ESPN. The radio call will be on KPRC 950 AM radio in Houston.

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