The Coogs left the locker room at halftime, clinging to a 23-21 lead. UH had not been themselves in the first half, settling for bad shots and going 8/31 from the floor. Only two players made more than one field goal.
It was reminiscent of the first Temple game when a poor shooting effort led to the team’s second loss. After that, no one found a rhythm until Marcus Sasser stepped up again, taking over the second half by making everything in sight and opening his own personal floodgate.
Tramon Mark grabbed an ECU miss and, on the ensuing fast break, found Sasser uncovered on the left wing for a three.
That capped off a 6-0 Houston run to start the second half and forced the Pirates to call a timeout. That three set the stage for Sasser and signaled the beginning of the end for the Pirates. After an ECU layup out of the timeout to bring the lead down to six, Sasser hit two free throws, and the lead would never fall below three possessions the rest of the game.
Sasser ended up 7 of 8 in the second half and 8/8 on free throws. His 24 second-half points almost matched ECU’s total (25). Sasser scored half of the UH’s 60 points in the game and had about two-thirds of their second-half scoring. The rest of the team went a shocking 1/18 from the floor in the second half.
The early Houston run set the tone for the entire second half. UH even flipped the script on the board battle: ECU had a 24-14 edge before the half, but UH dominated 27-14 in the final 20 minutes.
Sasser stepped up again in the DFW area, where some of his best shooting nights have occurred. His second half on Friday afternoon kept the shaky Cougars in the bracket and pushed them to 10-0 all-time at Dickies Arena. Thanks, in part, to Sasser’s offense, UH also returned to their brand of suffocating defense and limited ECU’s second-chance opportunities by allowing only four offensive rebounds on 20 missed shots.
For UH to get to Sunday’s title game, perhaps they’ll need Sasser to continue to dominate. But for certain, the rest of the team must match the second-half intensity he showed.
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