As bad as the first half was for Houston against Baylor in the Final Four, it could have been worse without Marcus Sasser.
Although Houston trailed by 25 as Baylor put on a clinic en route to a 78-59 Final Four win Saturday and a trip to Monday’s NCAA Tournament championship game, Sasser did his best to keep the Cougars in the game.
The sophomore scored 17 of Houston’s 20 points, shooting 6 of 11 from the field, including five 3-pointers. DeJon Jarreau (two points) and Justin Gorham (one point) were the only other Houston players to score in the first half.
“We were going shot for shot and that wasn’t going to win it,” Sasser said. “We had to get stops and it was just unfortunate we couldn’t do that. But just doing everything to try to help my team win.”
Sasser finished with a team-high 20 points.
Houston ended its season 28-4, reaching the Final Four for the first time since Phi Slama Jama in 1984.
“We had a great run and just fell short this year,” Sasser said.
— Bench contributions: Baylor’s bench came up big in the regular season, in the tournament and again in the Final Four.
The Bears’ reserves combined for 32 points, with Matthew Mayer (12 points in 19 minutes) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (11 points, six rebounds) each bringing huge energy in the first half.
“I thought all year long our secret to our success has been our bench,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Again, it’s not five guys. We got a starting rotation and everybody comes in and provides a lift for us.”
— Baylor to be proactive on Drew: Drew is being mentioned as a possible candidate for North Carolina, just as he was for Indiana.
If Baylor AD Mack Rhoades is worried, he didn’t show it during an appearance on the Matt Mosley Show on Waco’s KRZI 1660 AM this past week.
“I’m confident he’s going to remain at Baylor,” Rhoades said. “We’re always going to be proactive in retaining talent, in retaining head coaches.”
“We will continue to make sure that Scott feels valued and appreciated by the university, by the athletics department, by me. I am confident, we can only do what we can do, but I feel good about Scott being here for a long time.”
That said, North Carolina seems likely to pursue someone from the Tar Heel coaching tree to replace the retiring Roy Williams.
Just 50, Drew has reached his first Final Four to go with a Big 12 regular-season championship and nine NCAA Tournament appearances.
“He is an unbelievable coach, he is one of the best coaches in the country and for me Scott did not have to go to a Final Four to validate how great of a coach he is,” Rhoades said.
— First-half history lesson: Baylor became the fourth team ever to lead by at least 25 at halftime of a Final Four game. The Bears were the first team since Kansas in 2003 against Marquette.
— Briefly: After two regular-season losses, Baylor assistant coach Alvin Brooks III got his first win against his father, Houston assistant Alvin Brooks … Baylor has won 23 straight non-conference games … Baylor improved to 10-2 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
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