No. 17 Houston hosts struggling Wichita State
Wichita State, whose string of nine consecutive 20-win seasons is in danger, has a golden opportunity to reverse course Saturday.
The Shockers (7-7, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) have had a week to move beyond their overtime home loss to Temple last Saturday and prep for perhaps their stiffest conference challenge -- at No. 17 Houston (15-1, 2-1).
Wichita State, which has dropped three consecutive games, needs to catch fire with haste. A win over Houston would be quite a spark.
"Tough couple of games coming up," coach Gregg Marshall said of the Cougars and UCF, which plays at Wichita State next Wednesday. "Houston may be the best team we've played. Let's start there.
"Houston's quite a team. They are legit. This is what I am going to tell my team. Houston, if they stay healthy, is a second-, third-weekend type team in the NCAA Tournament. They could go all the way. They could win it all. They've got that much talent and depth and coaching.
"We've got quite a challenge. Brand new arena. It'll be fun."
Wichita State could link some of its struggles to inexperience; three of the six players averaging 20-plus minutes per game are freshmen. In order to avoid their first four-game skid since January 2009, the Shockers need freshmen Jamarius Burton, Dexter Dennis, and Erik Stevenson to continue their acclimation process with a focus on ball security.
The Shockers are around 200th nationally in Division I with a minus-0.1 turnover margin.
"At any given time, you can look out there and there's a minimum of one, most of the time there's two or three and there can even be four freshmen on the floor at one time," said Marshall, whose Shockers are 0-3 on the road this season.
"And that's like suicide king, you know. ... It's crazy what we're doing sometimes and how silly we are with the basketball and how we don't execute. Again, that's who we are, that's where we are, that's what we are right now and we just got to continue to try to evolve and get better."
The Cougars fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 73-69 loss at Temple on Wednesday, a setback that snapped the third-longest winning streak in program history. They remain in possession of their 28-game home winning streak, including a 9-0 mark at the Fertitta Center.
The defeat put a dent in what had been a rousing start to the season for the Cougars, whose fan base was already invigorated by the early-December opening of the remodeled Fertitta Center. The 15-game winning streak was the longest for the program since the 1982-83 squad won 26 consecutive games before falling to North Carolina State in the national championship game.
The fevered pitch surrounding the Cougars shouldn't dissipate with the loss at Temple. Houston appears to have engaged its community.
"We have a history," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told CBS Sports Network. "What we're doing is waking it up."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 11, 2019