Marcus Sasser looked conscionable fine, scoring 22 points, and top-seeded Houston stifled section favourite Auburn successful nan 2nd half for an 81-64 triumph successful nan NCAA Tournament Saturday night.
The Cougars (33-3) overcame a 10-point halftime deficit, returning aft nan break pinch a spot connected their shoulders.
Essentially shutting down nan lane, Houston played pinch nan desperation of a nationalist title contender that wasn't fresh to suffer nan aforesaid destiny arsenic Purdue and Kansas — No. 1s that already were sent home.
Led by Tramon Mark pinch 26 points, Houston precocious to look either No. 4 Indiana aliases No. 5 Miami, which play Sunday, successful nan Sweet 16 successful Kansas City, Missouri.
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Tramon Mark of nan Houston Cougars reacts aft a play during nan 2nd half against nan Auburn Tigers successful nan 2nd information of nan NCAA Tournament astatine Legacy Arena astatine nan BJCC March 18, 2023, successful Birmingham, Ala. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Tigers (21-13) were doomed by a agelong of much than 10½ minutes without a section extremity and vanished conscionable 4 of 24 from nan section successful nan 2nd half.
Auburn did tie plentifulness of fouls, only to struggle mightily astatine nan statement astatine 19 of 36. Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome led nan Tigers pinch 14 points apiece.
Sasser had dealt pinch a groin wounded complete nan past week, but that didn't look to origin him immoderate problems. When he swished a 3-pointer to push Houston backmost ahead, 46-45, he fto retired an emphatic shriek connected his measurement backmost down nan court.
He vanished 5 of 9 beyond nan arc.
Sasser's only rumor was foul trouble. The All-American defender and his moving mate, constituent defender Jamal Shead, were forced to nan chair pinch 4 fouls apiece pinch nan crippled still successful doubt.
But Mark kept nan Cougars correct connected rolling offensively, and nan Jarace Walker-led defense conscionable refused to fto Auburn backmost successful nan game.
Houston Cougars fans cheer during nan 2nd half against nan Auburn Tigers successful nan 2nd information of nan NCAA Tournament astatine Legacy Arena astatine nan BJCC March 18, 2023, successful Birmingham, Ala. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Houston had 12 blocks, half of them swatted distant by Walker. Houston scored nan last 9 points to rustle it unfastened astatine nan end, pinch Sasser delivering different cardinal changeable from beyond nan 3-point stripe.
Auburn ripped disconnected a 17-4 tally complete nan last 5½ minutes of nan first half. Williams scored 8 of those points, swishing a 3-pointer and besides converting a three-point play.
Houston missed six of its past 8 shots successful nan half, its only baskets coming connected a brace of layups.
But nan Cougars would not beryllium denied, moreover pinch nan Tigers having a home-state edge. Legacy Arena successful Birmingham is only astir a two-hour thrust from their eastbound Alabama campus.
Marcus Sasser of nan Houston Cougars reacts during nan 2nd half against nan Auburn Tigers successful nan 2nd information of nan NCAA Tournament astatine Legacy Arena astatine nan BJCC March 18, 2023, successful Birmingham, Ala. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Auburn: The Tigers wrapped up an inconsistent play successful due fashion. They past won back-to-back games Jan. 18 and 21, closing retired nan play by winning only 5 of their past 15 games.
Houston: Sasser now has plentifulness of clip to remainder his groin, which should springiness him moreover much assurance he's not going to person immoderate much problems.
Houston is heading to nan Sweet 16 for nan 4th clip successful nan past 5 years nether Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars person ne'er won a nationalist title, contempt six appearances successful nan Final Four.