Jamal Shead and J’Wan Roberts each scored 16 points to make up for the injured Marcus Sasser as No. 1 Houston rolled to a 69-48 win over Cincinnati on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal game in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Cougars (31-2), the top seed in this event, advance to Sunday’s title game to play the winner of Saturday’s contest between third-seeded Tulane and second-seeded Memphis.
The Cougars led by 15 at halftime and were never seriously challenged in the second half. The only real drama in the game is the ongoing availability of Sasser, Houston’s top scorer and the AAC player of the year. He sustained an apparent groin injury and exited at the 6:57 mark of the first half and did not return.
Sasser’s availability for the tournament final is to be determined.
Jarace Walker added 13 points to send Houston to its 13th straight victory.
Landers Nolley II scored 14 points to lead the fourth-seeded Bearcats (21-12), who shot just 25.5 percent from the floor and missed 12 of their 28 free throws.
Unlike in its tournament quarterfinal win against East Carolina when it shot a season-low 28 percent, Houston began the game on fire. The Cougars roared out to a 11-2 lead over the game’s first four minutes.
The Cougars were up by eight points when Sasser was injured. Despite having four players with at least two fouls, Houston still was able to expand its lead to 36-20 after a hook shot by Ja’Vier Francis with 2:26 remaining in the half before settling for a 38-23 advantage at the break.
Walker paced the Cougars with nine points and seven rebounds before halftime. All nine of the players who saw the court in the half scored at least two points.
Nolley led the Bearcats with eight points in the first half. Cincinnati was just 7 of 15 from the charity stripe.
Cincinnati cut its deficit to nine points after Nolley’s 3-pointer with 15:17 to play but the Cougars were unfazed, answering with an 8-0 run after which they never allowed their lead to fall to under double digits again.
–Field Level Media