UH-Wichita State will be battle of two similar teams
No. 11 Houston returns to the hardwood on Wednesday night when it hosts American Athletic Conference foe Wichita State at Fertitta Center.
The Cougars (8-1, 3-1 AAC) are coming off a 14-point victory over SMU, which ended a stretch of three straight road games against conference opponents.
Since playing four games in nine days, UH has seen the schedule ease up a bit as it has played only one game since last Tuesday against Tulsa.
“I can’t tell you the importance of recovery this time of the year, allowing your kids to just recover mentally,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters on Tuesday morning in a Zoom conference call.
The head coach also said the off days have allowed his team to have more practice days, which they have used to focus on themselves.
With the Shockers (6-2, 2-0 AAC) entering Wednesday’s game as the last team in the conference to be undefeated in league play, Sampson’s group is preparing for a tough challenge.
Here is what the UH coach said about Wichita State:
The Shockers are led by two dynamic guards in senior Alterique Gilbert, who transferred from UConn, and sophomore Tyson Etienne.
Gilbert is averaging 11.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals for the Shockers in 2020-21.
“Gilbert is a crafty little point guard,” Sampson said. “(He is) tough. He knows how to play.”
As for the New Jersey native, Etienne is coming off a 29-point performance against Ole Miss. On the year, he is averaging 17 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
“Etienne is blossoming into a star in this league,” Sampson said.
The UH head coach also pointed out junior guard Dexter Dennis, who is playing 25 minutes a game, and averaging 7.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest.
“(Dennis) is as talented and athletic as anyone on the wing,” Sampson said. “I think they all fit now.”
The Shockers are a team that has a strong bench and is also a good rebounding team, Sampson said.
Wichita State is third in the AAC in rebounding with 40.9 boards per game, which is behind UH’s 41.4.
“I think this team plays more similar to us than any team we’ve played this year,” Sampson said. “This is a tough team. Isaac (Brown) has done a great job.”
When it comes to the Shockers, they are coming off an offseason that was filled with drama revolving around the allegations regarding former head coach Greg Marshall, who resigned from the program in November.
Despite the controversy as well as having six scholarship players transfer out of the program, interim coach Brown has managed to navigate the waters and has the Shockers competing at a high level, which has caught Sampson’s eye.
“They play hard for him, which tells me all I need to know about their relationship with Isaac Brown,” Sampson said. “This team has great chemistry. They play hard. There is a reason they’re 2-0 in conference and 3-0 in their last three road games.”