No. 3 Houston seeks continued success vs. Wichita State
Third-ranked Houston will look to remain in sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference standings by continuing its dominance over host Wichita State on Thursday.
The Cougars (20-2, 8-1 AAC) are seeking their ninth win in their past 10 games against the Shockers (11-10, 4-5) dating back to January 2018.
Houston rallied in the second half for a 75-69 win over visiting Cincinnati on Saturday, while the Shockers never trailed against East Carolina in an 85-72 victory on Sunday in Greenville, N.C.
The Cougars trailed by 11 points with 11:28 remaining before going on a 20-4 run to take a 69-64 lead with 2:49 left. After the Bearcats tied the game at 69 with 1:19 to go, the Cougars closed the game on a 6-0 surge to secure the win.
"We executed at a really, really high level tonight," said Houston's Kelvin Sampson, who became the first coach to lead the Cougars to eight consecutive 20-win seasons. "Whatever was called, we executed. The ball moved, probably got a little sticky in the first half. We had some clean looks. ... Our kids kept fighting. When you get down, you don't give in."
The Cougars were led by freshman Jarace Walker, who had a season-high 25 points to go along with seven rebounds, while J'Wan Roberts added 14 points and six rebounds. Jamal Shead chipped in 13 points and five assists.
"Jamal's will to win equals his refusal to lose," Sampson said. "Jarace is just getting more comfortable and more confident, and you can see it in the things we do in practice."
Houston, which has won two games in a row, is led by Marcus Sasser, who averages a team-high 16.2 points to go along with 3.2 assists per game. Walker averages 11.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, with Roberts putting up 9.9 points and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game.
Wichita State's weekend win was even more impressive.
The Shockers jumped out to a 49-28 halftime advantage and led by as many as 27 in the second half.
"We just played smart," Wichita State coach Isaac Brown said. "Valuing the basketball, not turning it over. We did a good job of getting off to a good start and the guys defended at a high level. We got the ball inside and we played inside-out and we came away with the win."
Wichita State, which has won four of its past six games, was led by Craig Porter Jr., who had a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds, well above his averages of 12.5 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.
James Rojas, who averages 8.8 points per game, scored a career-high-tying 19 against the Pirates, while Jaykwon Walton, who averages a team-high 13.3 points per game, added 13 points and seven rebounds. Kenny Pohto, who averages 7.6 points per game, finished with 10 on Sunday.
"The message from the coaches was to figure out a way to play the full 40 minutes, and that's what we did," Porter said. "We realized the mismatches that we had and we knew from the first time playing them that we excelled getting the ball in the paint and scoring in the lane."
--Field Level Media
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