Houston's Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead 'healthy' for Sweet 16

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After having two key players work through injuries in recent weeks, Houston expects to be in a healthier state for its Sweet 16 game against 5-seed Miami on Friday.

Marcus Sasser, who has wrestled with a groin injury for the past two weeks, and Jamal Shead, who had to play through a knee injury, both said Thursday that they'll be ready to play against the Hurricanes.

It appears that a week of rest has helped both players.

"I've just been doing a good job getting treatment, massages, stretches," said Sasser, who missed all or parts of three of the past four games for the 1-seeded Cougars. "I'd say I'll probably be around 90 percent by Friday, so I've been getting healthy."

Shead, who suffered his injury in the first-round win vs. Northern Kentucky, said he'll be ready, too.

"Mine was just a bang-up [play]," Shead said. "So I'm back to 100 percent in just these couple of days to recover. I'm back to being pretty good."

That's significant news for the Cougars. With Shead and Sasser on the court together this season, Houston has held opponents to just 87 points per 100 possessions. As a comparison, Tennessee (87.1) is ranked first in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.

Sasser scored 22 points in 31 minutes in the Cougars' second-round win over Auburn, while Shead added 10 points in 34 minutes.

With two more wins, the Cougars can punch their ticket back to Houston, site of this year's Final Four.

"We understand what's at stake and we know what's at home, but you've got to win to get there," Shead said. "So that's where our focus has been -- on this next game -- because Miami is not a pushover."

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said it's too difficult to win games in the NCAA tournament to consider anything but the next matchup.

"If we play good tomorrow, we've got a chance to win," Sampson said. "If we don't, we'll go home, and that's just the way it is. Hasn't changed since this tournament started. That's why you don't ever prepare for next week. You prepare for it logistically, but these games are hard to win, man."