Houston beats Cincinnati, make fifth-straight AAC title game

No. 1 Houston suffocated the fourth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday in a 69-48 wire-to-wire win. The Cougars advanced to their fifth-straight American Athletic Conference title game. UH All-American Marcus Sasser suffered an injury after slipping on the court in the first half and did not return.

Sasser held his leg, then his groin, before limping to the bench. He later went to the locker room for more treatment but returned to the arena for the second half.

The injury is described thus far as a groin strain.

“The only thing I know is that it was not his knee,” said Kelvin Sampson. “They’re still evaluating, but we’ll see.”

Sampson said he will be cautious with Sasser’s injury for Sunday.

“I would probably err on the side of holding him out,” Sampson said, “because of how important next week is.”

After the game, UH updated Sasser’s status, calling him questionable for Sunday. He will be a game-time decision.

In his absence, J’Wan Roberts stepped up with 16 points and eight rebounds, bouncing back from a scoreless game the day before. Jamal Shead also came up big with 16 of his own, plus nine assists.

Houston led by eight when Sasser exited, but his teammates stepped up to increase the lead to 15 at the half. Coming out of the break, Cincinnati closed the gap to ten before a Kelvin Sampson timeout. Sampson drew up a play for Tramon Mark, and the junior stepped up, hitting a jumper off an assist by Jarace Walker. From there on, the team clamped down on defense, allowing just one field goal in eight minutes to blow the game wide open.

The Cougars looked unrecognizable early on compared to how they started Friday’s game versus ECU. Houston hit nine of their first 12 shots from the floor and jumped out to an early double-digit lead.

“We just did what we do,” Sampson said. “We were very disciplined on defense. We just rebounded well; got the ball where it needed to go.”

Sampson turned to his freshmen on the bench to close the first half. The younger lineups helped give the Cougars build the halftime lead. UH also out-rebounded Cincinnati 44-32 after struggling with it early on Friday.

The Cougars will face Memphis on Sunday for the American Athletic Conference title, their last game in the league before moving to the Big 12.

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