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No. 1 Houston hosts USF looking for eighth straight win

Jan 8, 2023; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Houston Cougars guard Jamal Shead (1) attempts to make a save in the second half of the NCAA men   s basketball game at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati on Sunday, Jan 8, 2023. Houston Cougars defeated Cincinnati Bearcats 72-59.  Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare-USA TODAY NETWORK
Credit: The Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK

Top-ranked Houston will look to build on a seven-game winning streak and remain unbeaten in league play when it hosts South Florida on Wednesday in an American Athletic Conference contest.

The Cougars (16-1, 4-0 AAC) reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll after holding down the top of the rankings for two weeks earlier in the season. Houston fell to fifth in the poll after losing at Alabama on Dec. 10, but hasn’t lost since.

Before this season, the Cougars had not earned a station atop the poll since 1983. The 1967-68 team holds the school record with eight weeks at No. 1.

“We’ve just got to be prepared, man,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Every good team is a challenge we have to be ready for, you know. For us, we focus on what’s in front of us and what’s in front of us right now is South Florida. We will go to work and focus on how we’re going to guard their people.”

Houston’s most recent outing was a 72-59 win at Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon. Freshman Jarace Walker paced the Cougars with 21 points while producing his second straight performance of 20 or more points. Walker was named the AAC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season.

Marcus Sasser added 16 points, J’Wan Roberts racked up 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Tramon Mark had 10 points for Houston in the win. The Cougars were up by seven points at halftime, took the game by the throat with a 15-2 run to start the second half and never looked back.

The Bulls (7-9, 0-3) have started the league campaign with three losses but could have won each of those games. South Florida had double-digit leads against Memphis and Wichita State and led Temple with less than four minutes to play.

USF’s most recent game was a 70-66 setback at home to Wichita State on Sunday. The Bulls were up by 14 points in the first half, trailed by four at the break and then ran out of gas down the stretch.

Russel Tchewa led South Florida with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Tyler Harris added 16 points and Sam Hines Jr. amassed 11 points with 10 rebounds.

The Bulls will be playing a top-ranked team for the sixth time in program history; South Florida has dropped the first five encounters.

“I don’t know that it’s that big of a deal to play the No. 1 team,” USF coach Brian Gregory said. “I don’t think our guys are thinking extra about that. Certainly, it’s big and historic if you can win. But Houston was good (last week) as the No. 2-ranked team.

“Nobody has to remind us that Houston is a big-time team. We have to keep it simple, do what we do, play hard and compete. We have to do the things we do well, stick to it and play hard for 40 minutes. We have nothing to lose.”

Houston has won the past 11 games and 13 of the last 14 overall against USF.

–Field Level Media