No. 1 Houston beats ECU in AAC, gets back-to-back 30 wins

Fri, Mar 10, 2023
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No. 1 Houston beats ECU in AAC, gets back-to-back 30 wins

Marcus Sasser scored 30 points and top-ranked Houston got its 30th win of the season with a 60-46 victory over East Carolina in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday.

The Cougars (30-2), a sure-bet No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, have back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time since their Phi Slama Jama era. Houston made three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1982-84, and were national runner-ups in back-to-back seasons - winning 31 games in 1982-83 and 32 the next season.

Sasser, the AAC player of the year, was a starter on the 2021 Final Four team but missed the Cougars' run to the NCAA Elite Eight last year because of a broken bone in his left foot.

Jamal Shead added 12 points for Houston, which won despite shooting a season-low 28.1% (16 of 57) from the field. J'Wan Roberts, who was 0-for-5 shooting and didn't get to the free throw line, had 12 rebounds.

East Carolina freshman forward Ezra Ausar had 18 points and a season-high 19 rebounds in his third double-double this season. The Pirates (16-17) had a season-low scoring total and shot 31.4% (16 of 51).

The Pirates jumped out to an early 9-5 lead by making four of their first five shots before they started to struggle against Houston's tenacious defense. ECU made only four of its remaining 18 shots before halftime, but still only trailed by two because the Cougars were even worse from the field at 25.8% (8 of 31).

After three Pirates turnovers in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the second half, Houston extended its lead to 29-21 when Sasser swished a 3 from the left wing. Another 3 by Sasser pushed the lead to 42-28 with just over 12 minutes left.


East Carolina: Its 16 wins in the first season under coach Michael Schwartz were the most since going 17-17 in 2013-14 - the final season in Conference USA for the Pirates before moving to the AAC. Their 73-58 win over South Florida in the opening round Thursday was their first win in the AAC tournament since 2017.

Houston: The Cougars are the only team in the nation that hasn't lost away from home this season. They were 11-0 in true road games and are now 3-0 in neutral games. Houston has never lost at Dickies Arena on the edge of downtown Fort Worth where the AAC Tournament is played. The Cougars are 10-0 in the building, including the past two AAC Tournaments and regular-season games in each of the past three seasons.


Houston: Plays Saturday in the AAC semifinals for the fifth consecutive tournament. The Cougars, who are moving to the Big 12 next season, will play fourth-seeded Cincinnati or fifth-seeded Temple.


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