PREVIEW: No. 3 Houston Cougars basketball heads for Kansas to face off against Wichita State

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13745380l) Houston forward J’Wan Roberts, second from right, reacts after making a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati, in Houston Cincinnati Basketball, Houston, United States – 28 Jan 2023

PREVIEW: No. 3 Houston Cougars basketball heads for Kansas to face off against Wichita State

The Houston Cougars basketball team is back on the road for the first of two straight outings in opposition territory when it faces off against Wichita State on Thursday.

No. 3 Houston (20-2, 8-1 American Athletic) is coming off the heels of a comeback win over Cincinnati at home on Saturday afternoon. The Shockers (11-10, 4-5 AAC) enter the game following a road win against East Carolina.

For Wichita State, it all begins with senior guard Craig Porter Jr. He is averaging 12.5 points and leads the Shockers with 3.9 assists, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.8 blocks a game. Porter is WSU’s best player, Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said in a Tuesday morning Zoom call.

“Really good one-on-one player,” Sampson said about Porter. “Tough kid. Really has improved his game, playing well. How well he is playing has coincided with their success.”

The Shockers have a lot of length both on the wings with guards Jaron Pierre Jr. and Jaykwon Walton, who leads the team in scoring averaging 13.3 points per contest, and Wichita State also has length up front with senior big man James Rojas, Sampson said.

“They’re 6-5 [Pierre] and 6-7 [Walton] on the wings,” the head coach said. “They got a 6-11 physical big with Rojas. Then they come off the bench with multiple guys that can make threes, so playing at Wichita State is always a tough task cause they call it the roundhouse and it is a loud house.”

Wichita State has five players that average 13 or more minutes and are shooting over 32% on 3-pointers. The Shockers are second in the AAC, behind only Houston, when it comes to opponents’ field goal percentage. Wichita State is holding its opponents to just 39.1% shooting from the field. Houston is holding opponents to 35.2% shooting from the field.

The Shockers are also second in the conference when it comes to points per game allowed. WSU’s opponents are scoring 65.9 points per contest. Houston is first, holding opponents to just 54.9 points per game this season.

Sampson also had a lot of praise for the Shockers’ fans. He expects the crowd to play a factor in Thursday’s game.

“It’s been one of the great programs for a long time,” Sampson said. “Their fans, their history, they got a legacy of great winning tradition, so every time you go there, you know you are in for a fight.”

For Houston, sophomore guard Ramon Walker is officially out for the remainder of the season, Sampson confirmed. Gallery Sports reported the Pearland native was going to medical redshirt for the year on Sunday.

The head coach said it was a mutual decision between Walker and the program. Houston now has three players redshirting this season in transfer guard Mylik Wilson, January enrollee and redshirt freshman Cedric Lath, and Walker, Sampson added.

“[Walker is] going through some personal stuff that he is attending to with John Houston [and] our medical people,” Sampson said. “I’m not going to comment on that further, that is personal with Ramon.”

Houston’s game against Wichita State is an 8 p.m. CT tipoff, and it will air on ESPN2 and will also be able to be heard on KRPC 950 AM radio in the city.

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