Sasser, Houston advanced on March Madness, beating Auburn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Marcus Sasser looked just fine, scoring 22 points, and top-seeded Houston suffocated local favorite Auburn in the second half for an 81-64 victory in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.

The Cougars (33-3) returned after halftime with a chip on their shoulders.

Essentially, Houston shut down the field with the desperation of a national championship contender not ready to suffer the same fate as Purdue and Kansas — the No. 1 seed already sent home.

Led by Tramon Mark’s 26 points, Houston advanced to face either No. 4 Indiana or No. 5 Miami, which plays Sunday, in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Tigers (21-13) were penalized after a stretch of more than 10 1/2 minutes without a field goal and finished just 4 of 24 from the field in the second half.

Auburn drew plenty of fouls, only to struggle mightily at the line going 19 of 36. Jaylin Williams and Johni Broome led the Tigers with 14 points apiece.

the past week, but it didn’t seem to give him any trouble. When he drained a 3-pointer to put Houston ahead, 46-45, he let out an emphatic scream on his way down the court.

He finished 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.

Sasser’s only problem was foul trouble. The All-American guard and his running mate, point guard Jamal Shead, were both forced to the bench with four fouls each with the game still in doubt.

But Mark kept the Cougars rolling offensively, and the Jarace Walker-led defense just refused to let Auburn back into the game.

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Houston had 12 blocks, half of them knocked away by Walker. Houston scored the final nine points to blow it open at the end, with Sasser delivering another key shot from outside the 3-point stripe.

Auburn ripped off a 17-4 run over the final 5 1/2 minutes of the first half. Williams scored eight of those points, drained a 3-pointer and also converted a three-point play.

Houston missed six of its final eight shots in the half, and the only baskets came on a pair of layups.

But the Cougars would not be denied, even with the Tigers holding a home-state advantage. Legacy Arena in Birmingham is just a two-hour drive from the East Alabama campus.


Auburn: The Tigers ended an inconsistent season in fitting fashion. They last won back-to-back games on January 18 and 21, and finished the season winning just five of their last 15 games.

Houston: Sasser now has plenty of time to rest his groin, which should give him even more confidence that he won’t have any more problems.


Houston is headed to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the last five years under Kelvin Sampson. The Cougars have never won a national title, despite six appearances in the Final Four.


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