The Houston Cougars look to stay atop the American Athletic Conference and continue their winning ways when they face South Florida on Wednesday night in Tampa, Fla.
No. 20 Houston (19-5, 9-2 AAC) posted their seventh win in their last eight games on Saturday, a 76-43 trouncing of Wichita State. Only two other teams in the nation made more of a jump in the top 25 than the Cougars, who were No. 25 last week.
Coach Kelvin Sampson’s young team has matured as the season has gone along, he said.
“If you think about it, we played five perimeter guys (versus Wichita State), freshman, sophomores and a junior. You don’t start off being mature, you’re fighting bad habits and tendencies, they have to surrender,” Sampson said.
“The most important thing kids can do in our program is surrender to our culture. The effort it takes to play here, the toughness we require, that’s not easy to do, especially for young guys. I’m proud of our preparation and how we continue to improve.”
The effort on defense against the Shockers was what stood out most. Houston held Wichita State to 18 first-half points. Sampson said the team doesn’t shoot the ball well overall, so it must find other ways to twin.
The Cougars are trying to stay level-headed about their success.
“I tell the team that people will tell them how good they are, but to not listen to that stuff. We have a game on Wednesday on the road, and I know how hard it is to play on the road,” Sampson said. “They don’t give you a parade for winning your ninth conference game and you don’t get a medal for winning your 19th game.”
South Florida (11-12, 4-6) has won three straight and is coming off a 75-73 win at Memphis, which earlier this season was a top-15 team.
David Collins and Laquincy Rideau led the Bulls with 21 points apiece, and Justin Brown had 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
“To the credit of our guys, they played with great toughness, energy and intensity, and stuck together during some tough times during the game,” Bulls coach Brian Gregory said. “When Laquincy Rideau and David Collins play that way, we’re really, really good. Then we get Justin Brown to play that way, and we did a really good job on the glass.
“When Memphis made runs, we were able to respond, which was key. I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of the energy they played with against a really good team.”
The win over Memphis was South Florida’s first over a Quad 1 opponent since the college basketball NET rankings were established in 2017.
Houston defeated visiting South Florida 68-49 when last the two teams met on Jan. 26. No Bulls player scored in double figures in that game.
Collins (14.0 points per game) is South Florida’s leading scorer. Rideau is second at 12.4 points per game.
–Field Level Media