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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Jarace Walker scores 16 points in 1-seed Houston's 63-52 win over 16-seed Northern Kentucky in First Round of NCAA Tourney
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POSTED: March 16, 2023 -- 11:43 p.m. CT
BIRMINGHAM, AL -- (Legacy Arena)
The 1-seed Houston Cougars defeated the 16-seed Northern Kentucky Knights 63-52 in a First Round matchup in the Midwest Region of the 2023 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
The game featured a few oddities: Houston point guard Jamal Shead had a season-high 6 turnovers; Houston, as a team, committed 17 turnovers (Houston averages 9.9 turnovers per game); Northern Kentucky crushed Houston 18-11 in offensive rebounding and outscored Houston 21-10 in second-chance points.
Marcus Sasser, Houston's senior guard and All-American, started the game - despite a groin injury. Sasser played 14 minutes in the first half; however, he aggravated the injury and finished the first half on the bench. Sasser did not play in the second half.
Sasser scored 5 points on 2 for 5 field goal shooting in his 14 minutes. Houston's frontcourt big men, Jarace Walker and J'Wan Roberts did the heavy lifting for Houston in the first half. Walker and Roberts combined for 17 of Houston's 30 points and 11 of Houston's 23 rebounds in the first half.
The Coogs shot the ball well (13 for 28, 46.4 fg%) in the first half; however, Houston committed 9 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. The Norse scored 9 points off Houston's 9 turnovers and outscored Houston 9-2 in points off turnovers in the opening half.
Northern Kentucky only made 10 of 30 field goal attempts (33.3 fg%) in the first half.
Houston led 30-27 at the half.
The Norse tied the Coogs at 34 and at 36 in the first 4 minutes of the second half. Jamal Shead got a shooter's bounce on a three-point shot attempt at the top of the key to break the 36-all tie. Houston went on an 11-2 run to lead 47-38. Houston freshman Emanuel Sharp made back-to-back threes as part of the 11-2 run.
Houston led 53-43 before Northern Kentucky crashed the offensive glass and scored 5 in a row to cut the Coogs' lead in half (53-48) with 4:38 remaining in the game. Jarace Walker got a dunk and Tramon Mark made his 2nd basket of the game to boost Houston's lead to 57-50.
Shead swished a fadeaway jumper to increase Houston's lead to 59-50. Northern Kentucky did not get closer than 9 points in the final 2 minutes of the game.
Shead battled through a sore knee and finished the game with 13 points (6 for 15 field goals), 6 assists, and 6 turnovers.
Jarace Walker finished the game with a game-high 16 points (6 for 8 field goals), 6 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. J'Wan Roberts pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and scored 11 points. Emanuel Sharp scored 10 points off Houston's bench.
Houston made 25 of 51 field goals (49.0 fg%) in the game while Northern Kentucky missed 50 of 69 field goals (27.5 fg%).
Survive and advance is what Houston did Thursday night. Houston faces 9-seed Auburn this Saturday, March 18. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:10 pm CT on TBS.
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