PREVIEW: No. 1 Houston Cougars basketball seeks its eighth straight win as it hosts South Florida

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13699433ae) Houston guard Tramon Mark (12) advances the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against SMU, in Houston SMU Basketball, Houston, United States – 05 Jan 2023

PREVIEW: No. 1 Houston Cougars basketball seeks its eighth straight win as it hosts South Florida

The Houston Cougars basketball team will return to action on Wednesday evening as it welcomes the South Florida Bulls inside Fertitta Center.

No. 1 Houston (16-1, 4-0 American Athletic) is looking to defeat USF for the 12th time in a row and 25th time all-time. The Bulls (7-9, 0-3 AAC) are coming off a 70-66 loss to Wichita State on Sunday.

“[USF] has been a little bit snake bit,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said on Tuesday morning. “[It is] 0-3, but they were up, I think, 13 at Memphis. They were up 14 Sunday against Wichita State. With three and a half [minutes] to go, they [were] up on Temple, so they are in a position to win all their games.”

When it comes to containing the Bulls, it begins with senior guard Tyler Harris, who transferred from Memphis in the offseason, Sampson said. Harris leads the team with 15.3 points per game on 37.4% shooting from the field.

Houston will also be focusing on slowing down sophomore guard Selton Miguel and senior forward Keyshawn Bryant.

“All three of those guys started and are major pieces,” Sampson said.

Miguel is leading the Bulls in assists with 3.4 a game. He is also averaging 11 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest. Bryant is averaging 8.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and one steal per matchup. USF is led in rebounding by junior center Russel Tchewa, who Sampson praised leading up to the outing.

“That Tchewa kid is one of the most improved players I think, in the country,” Sampson stated. “When he first got there, he hardly moved off the block, now they got him out making decisions at the 3-point line.”

Sampson also had high praise for head coach Brian Gregory, who is now in his sixth season at USF.

“Brian is an outstanding coach,” Sampson said. “He really is. He has good players.”

Houston forward Jarace Walker, who is coming off back-to-back 20-point performances, has been dealing with an illness since before Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

Sampson said Walker had a rough practice on Monday, but he expects him to feel better on Tuesday. Sampson also said sophomore guard Ramon Walker will take a leave of absence from the team to focus on himself.

Houston’s game against USF will tip off at 7 p.m. CT and will stream on ESPN+ as well as will be able to be heard on KPRC 950 AM radio in Houston.

“You just got to be prepared, man,” Sampson said. “Every team is a challenge. For us, we focus on what is in front of us.”

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