Preview: SMU at Houston
No. 12 Houston must rebound from a loss for the first time since early January and avoid looking ahead to its regular-season finale when struggling SMU pays a visit on Thursday night for an American Athletic Conference contest. The Cougars saw their 12-game winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time in 34 home contests Saturday with a 69-64 setback against Central Florida.
“I’m proud of my team,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters of the Cougars, who are tied with Cincinnati for first place in the American. “We’re 27-2 and 14-2 in the league. We’ll go back to work, regroup and get back at it.” Cincinnati visits red-hot UCF on Thursday and hosts Houston on Sunday in what could be a showdown for the regular-season crown in the American, but the Cougars must stay alert against an SMU team that started the league season 3-1 before dropping 10 of its last 12 contests. The Mustangs gave Cincinnati trouble last week in a 52-49 defeat before losing by 12 to Wichita State on Sunday, dropping into a tie for 10th in the league with Connecticut. SMU junior point guard Jimmy Whitt Jr., who had 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in the 69-58 loss to Houston on Jan. 16, missed the game against Wichita State with a shoulder injury and is considered day-to-day.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT SMU (13-15, 5-11 American): Senior guard Jahmal McMurray, who recorded 27 points against Cincinnati on Feb. 27, leads the team in scoring (17.8 per game) while Whitt (12.0 points) tops the Mustangs in rebounds (6.6), assists (4.1) and steals (1.4). Versatile senior guard Jarrey Foster returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 10 games with a knee injury, scoring seven points on 1-of-6 shooting with a pair of rebounds in 20 minutes. Sophomore forward Ethan Chargois also averages 12 points and freshman big man Feron Hunt scored a season-high 14 against Wichita State.
ABOUT HOUSTON (27-2, 14-2): Senior guard Corey Davis Jr. led the way with 19 points in Saturday’s loss and is averaging 21.5 over the last four contests, including 20-of-36 shooting from 3-point range, to push his season mark to a team-high 16.1 points per game. Armoni Brooks, who was held to seven points by UCF, is the only other playing averaging in double figures scoring (13.5) for the well-balanced Cougars and the junior guard tops the team in rebounding (6.4). Sophomore guard DeJon Jarreau has stepped up his production level the last three games, averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 assists.
1. SMU sophomore F Isiaha Mike averages 11.9 points, but is just 9-of-30 from the field over the last three contests.
2. Houston senior G Galen Robinson Jr. is set to tie Ken Ciolli and George Walker on Thursday for second in team history in games played (129).
3. The Mustangs, who have lost three in a row against the Cougars after winning five of the previous six, averaged 50.7 points over their last three games.