Houston earned its biggest win of the season with a 73-59 home conference win over No. 7 Wichita State on Saturday afternoon. Coming on the 50th anniversary of the “Game of the Century” that saw a record 52,000-plus fans watch the Cougars snap UCLA and Lew Alcindor’s 47-game winning streak, the Cougars picked up its signature win of the season.
Led by guard Rob Gray’s 24 points, Houston played tough defense and out-hustled Wichita State to a lot of loose balls. The Cougars haven’t beaten a top-25 team this season, as this win will look very good in the eyes of the committee come March. With wins over Providence and Arkansas as well, this win might just help the American punch an additional bid into the NCAA tournament. Houston’s win is undoubtedly important, as the Cougars are still in the American conference race with Cincinnati and the Shockers.
But should we be worried about a Wichita State team that lost back-to-back games to unranked teams this week?
The Shockers just made the top ten then fell to SMU earlier in the week and also looked flat for most of the game against Houston. We knew that Wichita State was going to face a tougher conference schedule making the leap from the Missouri Valley from the American.
The losses themselves this week aren’t actually the concerning part. SMU deserved to win at Wichita State, but the Mustangs also needed to go a red-hot 11-for-22 from three-point range to earn the win. Houston is a solid team who could very well find themselves in the NCAA tournament with a few more wins.
But Wichita State has had a couple of slow starts the past few games and they haven’t been able to dig themselves out the holes they’ve created. The Shockers might have been able to get away with that sort of thing in the Valley but the teams in the American are proving to be more dangerous.
Wichita State is still a really solid top-25 caliber team -- especially if they can play ahead and use its superior depth to wear down opponents. We’ve learned this week, however, that Wichita State is susceptible to getting beat in its new league if they have to play from behind.
This has been the norm for most of college basketball’s elite but Wichita State is finally feeling the effects of what it’s like to be in a better league. The competition has finally caught up and now Wichita State has to play an “A” game against even better competition on a nightly basis.
It would be silly to count out Wichita State though. Markis McDuffie is still figuring things out after recently returning from injury and the Shockers have a habit of going on long winning streaks. Slip-ups against quality opponents has been the norm for every team in college basketball this season.
But it’ll be interesting to see how Wichita State looks the next time they have to play from behind. The American clearly isn’t taking this team lightly and everyone wants a crack at the new guy who is also ranked in the top 25.