|No. 7 Wichita State stands in way of Houston home perfection|
Two American Athletic Conference squads coming off disappointing losses collide Saturday, when No. 7 Wichita State travels to Houston to face the Cougars for the second meeting this season.
Wichita State stormed out to a 5-0 start in its first season in the AAC, before running into a buzz saw Wednesday in a home loss to SMU.
The Mustangs shot 63.8 percent from the floor and snapped Wichita State's seven-game win streak.
The Shockers trailed for the majority of the second half and were down 13 with 4:33 left in the game, before rallying. Landry Shamet and Austin Reaves each hit a pair of 3-pointers to fuel a late Wichita State comeback, but SMU's Shake Milton continued to hit big shots on his way to a career-high 33 points.
The Shockers simply couldn't keep up, but few teams could the way SMU shot the ball.
"In the end, they really had tremendous playmakers that made great plays," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said after the game. "They kept throwing dagger, dagger, dagger. We would get it down to four or three, and they would hit another big shot."
Even Houston coach Kelvin Sampson noted how well SMU played.
"I don't know if there's such a thing as playing perfect; but, if you could, SMU came as close to it as you can," said Sampson, according to Houston Roundball Review.
The Cougars also found themselves in a close game against a hot opponent their last time out. On Wednesday, in New Orleans, Houston took a late three-point lead against Tulane, but couldn't hold on and dropped an 81-72 conference game. Rob Gray scored 24 points to lead Houston.
Now, the Cougars (14-4, 4-2 AAC) return home to H&PE Arena, where they're 8-0 this season.
"It makes a big difference," Sampson said of playing at home. "I know when we played them there I thought that their crowd really fueled them; and, I think our crowd can fuel us."
The Shockers rolled past the Cougars 81-63 on Jan. 4, behind 18 points from Shamet. The 63 points is a season-low for Wichita State.
"As far as Wichita State is concerned, the problem they present for us is their size," Sampson said. "They're so big everywhere."
Wichita State (15-3, 5-1) trails Cincinnati by one game in the American standings. Houston and Memphis are one game back of the Shockers, who responded to their last loss, 91-83 to Oklahoma on Dec. 16, by winning their next seven games.
"We just have to get better," Wichita State guard Conor Frankamp told reporters after the loss to SMU. "We can't get complacent with winning however-many in a row. We know every single night is going to be a tough challenge in this league. We'll have to get back, watch film and try to get better on the things that we struggled with tonight."
Gray is averaging 19.4 points for the Cougars. Shamet leads Wichita State, averaging 16.1 points per game.