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Friday, September 18, 2020

Men's Basketball

PREVIEW: Cougars to face No. 16 Shockers on the road


Junior forward Fabian White Jr. attracting attention from two Texas State defenders on Dec. 4. White will look to build from Wednesday's 17-point, 10-rebound performance against the Mustangs when they face the Shockers on Saturday. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Junior forward Fabian White Jr. attracting attention from two Texas State defenders on Dec. 4. White will look to build from Wednesday’s 17-point, 10-rebound performance against the Mustangs when they face the Shockers on Saturday. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Houston is in Wichita, Kansas for its fifth American Athletic Conference game of the season when the team faces off against the No. 16 Shockers Saturday afternoon at the Charles Koch Arena.

The Cougars enter the game off of a 71-62 win against the Mustangs. Junior forward Fabian White Jr. led the team with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win, and sophomore guard Nate Hinton added in 14 points and nine rebounds.

Houston has won seven of its last eight games and is tied with Wichita State, Memphis and Tulsa as the conference’s best with all teams boasting a 3-1 conference record.

Redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills, despite coming off the bench on Wednesday, has become the team’s leader in points per game averaging 13.1 per contest. Mills had 15 points against the Mustangs.

A look at the Shockers

“The two teams that have impressed me the most are Memphis and Wichita State,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said in December.

At the time, the Shockers were yet to be in the NCAA Top 25, but the team stood out to Sampson, and he compared their situation a year ago, when they lost many of their starters, to the Cougars’ situation this season.

“(Wichita State last season) struggled in November; they struggled in December,” Sampson said. “Then they got it going in January and February and made the (National Invitation Tournament).”

The Shockers took the growing pains of the 2018-19 season and have capitalized on the experience in 2019-20.

Wichita State is No. 16 in the nation with an overall 15-2 record, and the team has won nine of its last 10 games, but the Shockers are coming off a 65-53 loss to Temple, in which they were outscored 39-21 in the second half.

“(The Shockers are) probably the best in the conference,” junior Fabian White Jr. said.

Through Jan. 17, Wichita State stands at No. 17 in the latest NET rankings, at No. 36 in KenPom and at No. 40 in the ESPN BPI.

Senior Center Jaime Echenique is coming off a career-high 20 points in the loss to Temple. He also had 13 rebounds.

According to Sampson, a big strength for the Shockers is their power forwards, who can space out the floor with their shooting ability.

“His fours are usually athletic rebounders that can step out and make shots,” Sampson said. “This will be our biggest challenge of the year so far.”

Sophomore guard Erik Stevenson leads the Shockers with 13.2 points per game, and junior forward Trey Wade leads the Shockers with 6.2 assists per game.

All-time series

Wichita State owns a 17-12 lead in the series, which includes a 12-2 record at home against Houston.

The Cougars won the lone meeting in 2018-19 between the two teams 79-70, but that game was in the Fertitta Center. Houston lost the previous meeting back in the 2017-18 season in Wichita, Kansas 63-81.

Saturday’s game will be the first of two meetings between the teams. The next contest will be in Houston on Feb. 9.

The game can be seen on ESPN2 and can be heard on KPRC 950 AM at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

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