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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Men's Basketball

At home win streak, AAC standings on the line versus Tulsa

Senior guard Rob Gray could tip the scales in favor of the Cougars if he returns to form. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

Two of the American Athletic Conference’s top teams will face off at H&PE Arena when the Houston Cougars (12-3) take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (10-6) Thursday.

Both teams are coming off losses with Houston losing 63-81 against No. 6 Wichita State and Tulsa losing 67-76 to Memphis.

Houston has a better overall record, but Tulsa has had a tougher schedule this season. Both teams will look to their star players to put up big numbers in what should be a close game.

Tulsa has defeated stronger AAC opponents than Houston, whose two conference wins are against the last place AAC teams.

Who to watch for

Senior guard Rob Gray is Houston’s leading scorer and second in the AAC in points per game, but has averaged only 13.4 PPG in four of his last five games.

Senior forward Junior Etou leads Tulsa offense and is fourth in the AAC for points per game, but has averaged only 12 PPG in three games, including Tulsa’s double overtime victory against Connecticut in which he scored only 10 of their 90 points.

While these numbers aren’t low by most player’s standards, both were averaging over 20 PPG before their slumps.

Senior guard Corey Henderson Jr. stepped up during the Hurricanes’ last two games, averaging 19.5 PPG and nailing 11 3-pointers, eight of which during the 2OT win versus UConn.

Senior forward Devin Davis and junior guard Corey Davis Jr. have been the Cougars next best scorers, both averaging about 11 PPG this season.

Davis Jr. is one of the AAC’s leading 3-point shooters with 43.2 percent 3-point accuracy, as is sophomore guard Armoni Brooks who has 45.5 percent accuracy from outside the line.

Areas to Watch

Houston’s shooters have the team ranked third in 3-pointers made, and Tulsa has allowed the most three point shots in the AAC. While that might look promising for the Cougars at first, Tulsa also allows the third lowest percentage of threes in the conference — meaning teams get numerous chances to score, but don’t make most of them.

The rebound battle in the paint will be important since both squads are in the AAC’s top four for rebounds per game. Tulsa’s Etou is one of the conference’s top rebounders, but Davis is not far behind him in numbers.

Both teams average over 75 PPG, but Houston’s defense has allowed only 67.6 PPG, fourth in the AAC, while Tulsa has allowed 72 PPG, 11th in the AAC.

Final Rundown

Houston is undefeated at home with seven wins under their belt while Tulsa is 3-5 on the road.

The Cougars have won three of the last four games between the teams after losing the first three games during head coach Kelvin Sampson’s first season at UH.

Both teams have tougher opponents ahead of them so building momentum before the rough stretches is key.

If Houston wins, they will leap over Tulsa and tie UCF for third in the AAC while Tulsa drops to sixth. If Tulsa wins, neither team will move in the conference standings.

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