No. 9 Wichita State faces Houston in first home AAC game
No. 9 Wichita State hosts Houston on Thursday in a battle of two American Athletic Conference teams off to hot starts.
The Shockers (11-2, 1-0 AAC) have bounced back from a loss to Oklahoma with three straight wins, and in their first game in the AAC, coach Gregg Marshall's team rolled past Connecticut on Saturday.
Landry Shamet led three Shockers in double figures with 16 points, and Rashard Kelly finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds in the win at UConn.
"It was a cool atmosphere to finally get into conference play and get that first win out of the way," Shamet told reporters. "Our first American win, on the road, a 10-point win at UConn. Looks good."
The Cougars (12-2, 2-0) improved to 2-0 in the AAC with a tight 76-73 win over Temple on Saturday. Houston has won four in a row, but might not be at full strength when it visits Charles Koch Arena on Thursday.
Houston forward Breaon Brady scored a career-high 21 points in the Cougars' win over Temple but suffered an ankle injury midway through the second half and had to leave the game. Brady is considered a game-time decision against Wichita State.
"It was a sprained ankle," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said after the Temple game. "He has a big knot on the side of his ankle and it's swollen. He will be alright. We would like to play him more minutes, but he gets fatigued easily so we have to rotate him in and out regularly."
If he can't go, Brady's presence will be missed in the paint against a Shockers team that ranks fourth in the nation in rebound margin. Wichita State has outrebounded opponents by an average of 11.6 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Rob Gray leads the Cougars in scoring, averaging 19.0 points per game. An all-conference selection last season, Gray bolsters a Houston attack that is scoring 80.6 points per game and has Marshall's attention.
"They are very talented," Marshall said of the Cougars. "They've got a lot of good players. They have a guy that was all-conference last year and led the league in scoring, Rob Gray. They've got other players.
"Devin Davis makes every shot, and their point guard really pushes it and makes everyone (better). We will have our hands full; plus, they are very well-coached, obviously. They are tough. They don't beat themselves. Good team."
So are the Shockers, but they just haven't played like it in some of their biggest games. Their two losses have come against Notre Dame and Oklahoma. Houston might not quite be in either of those teams' class, but the Cougars will definitely be an early test for the Shockers in AAC play.
"I just hope we play well enough to keep winning," Marshall said. "I know Houston is going come in here and then after that it's USF. Then we go on the road for two. It's all new, these teams coming here and us playing them and going to their places.
"We're excited about the challenge and we'll continue to work hard every day to try to put the best product on the floor."
Wichita State has asked fans to "stripe" the stands Thursday at Charles Koch Arena, with spectators assigned to wear black, yellow or white depending on where their seats are.
The Shockers are 65-1 in the last five seasons at Charles Koch Arena, with their only loss coming to Northern Iowa in 2016.
Updated January 3, 2018