Marcus Sasser '100%' playing in Houston's 2nd round game vs. Auburn

Jamal Shead, who also came away with an injury Thursday night, is also planning to play against the Tigers on Saturday.

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Friday, March 17, 2023
Coogs on floor vs. N. Kentucky weren't a No. 1 team, Sampson says
Marcus Sasser is expected to be on the floor for the Houston Cougars, who take on Auburn in an unofficial home game for the Tigers.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (KTRK) -- Marcus Sasser is "100%" planning to play in the Houston Cougars' second-round matchup with Auburn, the team announced Friday.

The senior guard and UH's leading scorer's status improved a day after he played 18 minutes in the team's win against Northern Kentucky and re-aggravated a groin injury he has been nursing since the American Athletic Conference tournament.

After the first-round victory, he told reporters that his pain was a "seven out of 10," putting doubt on whether he would be able to continue in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

"He said he felt funny," head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the Coogs' win. "I would have been fine if Marcus had decided not to play. But he wanted to give it a try because he thought he was at a high enough percentage of 100 that he could. So obviously he got out there and didn't feel like he could, so he shut it down, which is the right thing to do."

Sasser wasn't the only person hurting. His backcourt mate, Jamal Shead, played 36 minutes Thursday night with a sore knee.

Houston fended off an upset bid despite turning the ball over 17 times. The Cougars pulled away from the Norse, 63-52.

Houston guard Marcus Sasser brings the ball up during the first half of the team's first-round college basketball game against Northern Kentucky, Thursday, March 16, 2023.
AP Photo/Butch Dill

Beyond Sasser's injury, a bright spot was discovered in the form of freshman Emanuel Sharp, who came in scoring 10 points, including three from beyond the arc.

"A win doesn't have to be pretty as long as you win at the end of the day," Sasser said. "My brothers had my back and I'm really proud of them."

The uncertainty over Sasser is just one obstacle in a list of several for the Coogs, who now face a test against the ninth-seeded Auburn, which advanced to face UH after defeating Iowa.

The Tigers traveled about two hours from their campus to compete at the Birmingham, Alabama, tournament site. The proximity could give Auburn a small homecourt advantage over Houston.

UH (32-3) was 11-0 in true road games and 5-1 in neutral court contests, with the lone loss coming against Memphis in the AAC tournament final, which Sasser did not play in.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. Saturday. Caesars Sportsbook has Houston as a five-and-a-half-point favorite to win.

Meanwhile, our partners at FiveThirtyEight give UH an 18% chance out of the remaining teams in the tourney of winning the national championship, which is tied with Alabama for the highest probability.

SEE ALSO: Texas Gov. Abbott picks 'Bama to win in March Madness bracket

FiveThirtyEight, however, gives Houston a two-in-three chance of making the Sweet Sixteen and just a 51% probability of making the Elite Eight.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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