Marcus Sasser pulled the plug after trying to play through a groin injury, while Jamal Shead battled through a hyperextended knee.
BIRMINGHAM — With his stellar backcourt limping, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said his No. 1-seeded team, “has to see how many bodies we have available for Saturday” when the Cougars face Auburn in the men’s NCAA tournament second round.
Thursday night against Northern Kentucky, All-American guard Marcus Sasser tried to play through a groin injury he suffered last week in the American Athletic Conference tournament, but pulled the plug after one half. Sasser scored five points in 14 minutes, then shut it down after a halftime discussion with Sampson.
“He tried,” Sampson said. “I basically told him to just rest it.”
Sampson said Sasser didn’t do anything basketball-related Monday or Tuesday, and it wasn’t until Wednesday that he tried to practice. “That was the first day I really saw him do anything.” His availability will be one of the biggest stories of the tourney’s second round.
While one injured guard is a problem, two injured guards is a bigger problem. Jamal Shead, who leads Houston in minutes played, said he’s dealing with a hyperextended knee. Shead played through it, scoring 13 points with six assists and a season-high six turnovers. He will undoubtedly try to go against Auburn, and will be needed against the Tigers’ athletic backcourt.
Sampson said the Houston team on the court against Northern Kentucky “is not a one-seed,” and wasn’t a one-seed when it lost to Memphis in the AAC tourney final without Sasser. “The last time we were a one-seed was when we played Cincinnati (in the AAC semifinals, when Sasser got hurt). But we’ve got to figure it out.”
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