March 29, 2023 10:44 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — For leading-seeded Houston, any hope of winning a national title could come down to Marcus Sasser’s ailing groin.

Not to be concerned, Sasser stated Friday.

He’s certainly playing in the Cougars’ subsequent NCAA Tournament game.

“It’s not a game-time choice no much more,” Sasser stated, sitting at his locker in Legacy Arena, the very same spot exactly where the outlook seemed so significantly bleaker significantly less than 24 hours earlier. “I really feel terrific. I really feel great. I really feel typical.”

The All-American guard pulled himself out of a challenging-fought victory more than 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky in the March Madness opener, casting really serious doubts on his status for a second-round game Saturday against Auburn.

Particularly when Sasser stated afterward that the discomfort felt “around a seven out of ten.”

But the groin felt much better just before he went to bed. When he awoke, it seemed just fine.

Sasser now wonders if he was becoming a small also cautious due to the fact he didn’t want to danger a much more really serious trouble.

“When I very first woke up, I walked about and I didn’t really feel no discomfort,” he stated. “I was like, ‘I’m going for confident.’”

But Sasser conceded that the higher stakes of the game absolutely had an influence on his choice. He in all probability would’ve regarded as sitting out, just to be on the protected side, if this was a meaningless contest in December.

Groin injuries can be notoriously difficult when attempting to decide if an athlete is completely recovered, which prompts trainers to be specifically mindful to the danger of reinjury.

“This a win-or-go-residence game,” Sasser stated. “I’m going to go out and give it my all. You seriously do not know when your final game is. Plus, this is my final year of college, so I certainly want to go out with a bang.”

Coach Kelvin Sampson didn’t express any regrets about beginning Sasser 5 days just after he injured his groin in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, saying he left the choice in the hands of the coaching employees and his star player.

“It’s not the very first injury I’ve dealt with,” Sampson stated. “I deal with his injury like I’ve dealt with every single injury of any kid we’ve had for 34 years. It is up to him and the trainer. I do not make any choices. They say, ‘Why did you play him?’ I didn’t. I play him if he’s healthful, if the trainer thinks he can go and the kid thinks he can go. I trust Marcus.”

Sasser didn’t sound all that hopeful just after playing significantly less than 14 minutes against Northern Kentucky. He scored 5 points — effectively beneath his group-major 17.1 typical — and didn’t return just after halftime.

He stated the discomfort returned in his groin when he went up on a jumper, the final of only 3 5 shots he attempted on the evening.

Sampson stated it will be up to Sasser to decide how lots of minutes he plays against Auburn.

“He’s our very best player, I know that,” Sampson stated. “But I do not treat him any distinctive than I treat anyone else if they’re injured. ′

Point guard Jamal Shead stated he didn’t have any doubts that Sasser would be prepared to play against Auburn.

“I was fairly confident he’d play. It is win or go residence now, and he’s a challenging dude,” stated Shead, who has been bothered by a sore knee. “If this was our final game collectively and he didn’t play, that would haunt him a small bit.”

Sampson conceded that the Cougars are a distinctive group when they do not have Sasser major the way in the backcourt.

That was evident in the way Houston struggled against Northern Kentucky, which came in as an 18 1/two-point underdog but was tied with the Cougars 5 minutes into the second half.

Houston (32-three) ultimately pulled away for a 63-52 victory, but it hardly looked like a group that can make a deep run in the tournament without the need of Sasser.

“The group we had on the floor is not the group we played (most) instances this year,” Sampson stated. “Everybody sort of shifts about and you have to reassign roles, all that stuff.”

Sasser was injured final Saturday in an AAC semifinal victory more than Cincinnati. He didn’t play the following day in the conference championship game, merely watching as the Cougars have been upset by Memphis.

Sasser got the subsequent two days off, and only did a light exercise the day just before the NCAA opener. Shortly just before tipoff against Northern Kentucky, he was announced as a starter.

In retrospect, it seemed like the incorrect move.

But Sasser felt it was essential to get back on the court as quickly as achievable, “just to have that game feeling once again.”

“I felt like it was a optimistic and a damaging,” he stated. “I was back out there on the court, moving once again, moving complete speed, and it sort of gave me self-assurance for tomorrow’s game.”


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