Fresh off a win at Temple, No. 12 Houston is on the road again Wednesday night for an American Athletic Conference clash with South Florida at Tampa.
The shorthanded Cougars (12-1, 1-0) got what coach Kelvin Sampson called “by far” their best win of the season on Sunday despite being without their top two scorers and a key bench contributor against the Owls.
Marcus Sasser (17.7 points per game) is out for the rest of the season after having foot surgery, and Kyler Edwards (12.5) missed the game because of a sprained ankle. Tramon Mark (10.1) also is out for the remainder of the season after having shoulder surgery.
“Hopefully, we get Kyler back pretty soon, if not Wednesday then maybe next Saturday (versus Wichita State),” Sampson said.
With the injuries and busy schedule, Sampson plans to ease up the Cougars in practice this week.
“I won’t be doing a lot of practicing because of legs,” Cougars said. “We have three games in seven, eight days — Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday morning at 11 o’clock (local time) — so this is a tough stretch for us.”
In addition to the injuries, Houston’s scheduled conference opener last week against Cincinnati was postponed because of COVID protocol within the Cougars’ program.
They got a great response at Temple from freshman Ramon Walker Jr., who made his first collegiate start. Walker played 37 minutes, recording 13 points that included a big 3-pointer in the final minutes. Walker has played in just four games since being sidelined after hand surgery in early November.
“We’re fortunate that he was cleared and ready to play about the same time Tramon and Marcus went down,” Sampson said. “When we needed someone to step up and make a big shot, it was Ramon.”
White also tied his career high with 14 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
South Florida (5-7, 0-0) has been idle since Christmas Day when the Bulls dropped a 77-57 decision to Wyoming in the fifth-place game in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at Honolulu.
COVID protocols by their opponents cost the Bulls scheduled games against Mississippi Valley State and East Carolina last week.
With only four veterans returning from last season, Bulls coach Brian Gregory has a transfer-heavy roster that includes Javon Greene. The graduate transfer from George Mason has averaged 10.5 points a game, second only to Caleb Murphy (12.8).
They are the only two players who have started every game. They are also the only players scoring in double figures for the Bulls. Seven other players have logged starts for South Florida.
“I think this is a new age when it comes to college basketball,” Greogry said, according to the USF student newspaper, The Oracle. “You’re seeing it in college football quite a bit with the impact of the transfer market and guys that are able to come into a new place and make an immediate impact.”
–Field Level Media