March Madness 2023: Houston endures despite setbacks, now halfway to hometown Final Four

Marcus Sasser of the Houston Cougars speaks with a coach during halftime against the Auburn Tigers on March 18. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

It doesn’t matter that Houston plays a virtual road game. Or that two of the Cougars’ best players have had injuries and troubles.

Kelvin Sampson’s tough and tenacious team refused to become the year’s latest casualty Unexpected Men’s NCAA Tournament.

Staring down a 10-point deficit when the second half began, top-seeded Houston gave his effort defensively and methodically. The ninth-ranked Tigers only managed four baskets in the second half The Cougars battled their way to victory, 81-64 and a berth in the fourth consecutive Sweet 16.

With first-team All-American Marcus Sasser suffering a long-term groin injury and base guard Jamal Shedd dealing with a loose knee, other Houston players chose to slump. Junior guard Tramon Mark shot 26 points, which is nearly three times his average all season. Standout freshman Garris Walker and fellow forward J’Wan Roberts anchored the Cougars’ inside defense, collecting 11 of their team’s 12 blocked shots.

Had Houston joined Purdue and Kansas as Division 1 upset victims, it would have been the first time in NCAA Tournament history that they finished third. 1 seed Failing to make it into Week 2 of the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars instead led through two wins in their city’s Final Four appearance and set up a Sweet 16 match-up with Indiana or Miami.

Houston’s road to its second weekend in the NCAA Tournament was more treacherous than the other top seeds. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee gave Auburn the opportunity to play near his home in Birmingham, turning the second-round game of the top-seeded Cougars into a true road game.

When asked Friday if he expected a 90% pro-Auburn crowd, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson laughed and said, “90%? I hope 90.” Later in his press conference, Sampson took the opportunity to ask for support from any Alabama fans who were Inside Legacy Arena to watch the Crimson Tide take on Maryland on Saturday night.

“We need some help,” said Sampson, smiling. “Tide roll!”

Judging by the roar after every Auburn basket on Friday, Sampson Stadium hasn’t won many new fans for Houston. The crowd at Legacy Arena erupted when the half-time whistle blew as Auburn attacked Marcus Sasser on a lopsided volley to preserve a 10-point lead.

Houston came out of the halftime period rejuvenated and methodically worked their way into the lead with a 25-10 lead. The sloppy defense managed Auburn with just one field goal in the first 12 minutes of the second half, and Mark threw some much needed offense with Sasser and Shedd saddled with foul trouble.

Source link

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button