Winners of their last two home games, the Houston Cougars go on the road to face the Tulane Green Wave on Wednesday February 17th in New Orleans. It will be televised on ESPNews at 8:30 PM.
The Cougars improved to 18-7 and 8-5 in conference after their successful home stand, defeating both Memphis and UCF, and stand at fourth in the American among post-season eligible teams.
Tulane has also begun a winning streak of their own. Although they have struggled this season, especially in conference play, the Green Wave is now a winner of its last two, including a win at East Carolina and an overtime victory over a Memphis team chalk full of talent.
Tulane lost to Houston earlier in the season, 63-45. But the squad from New Orleans is playing its best basketball now, and looking to raise itself up from its spot at eighth in the American Athletic Conference among post-season eligible teams. They are currently 10-16 and 3-10 in conference play.
The Green Wave’s most significant offensive threat is senior Louis Dabney, who is averaging 14.2 points a game. Redshirt junior Malik Morgan is another, averaging double digit scoring this season. He was the leading scorer, with 11, against Houston in their previous meeting earlier in the season. Sophomore Dylan Osetkowski is a dynamic player, strong on both offense and defense. He leads Tulane in rebounds, with 8.8 a game, and is second in steals. He is averaging 11.2 points a game.
Regarding Tulane, Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson recently remarked, “They’re very well coached, they play hard, and they understand what they are trying to do.” If the Cougars are to beat the Ed Conroy coached team, they will have to play to the standard they established in the second half of the Memphis game and against UCF.
While they have played well in his absence, Houston will likely have an added jolt of energy come Wednesday, as leading scorer, Rob Gray Jr is likely to return from the ankle injury he sustained against East Carolina. They have won three of four without him in that stretch, but his 17.3 points per game will surely take some pressure off of Devonta Pollard, who has largely kept the offense afloat in Gray’s absence, including a career high 34 point game against Memphis, which did much to earn him the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week honor.
With only five regular season games left, each one will have significant implications on seeding in the American Athletic Conference tournament, whose winner earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. And in a league which will likely only receive one at large bid to supplement, seeding will be important, and especially in earning the first round bye.
While Tulane is close to the bottom of the standings, they will look to end the season strong, and split their pair of games with Houston this season. But with tough opponents still remaining against conference leaders Temple, UConn, and Cincinnati, the latter two who already defeated the Cougars, Sampson will hope his players won’t overlook this scrappy Green Wave team playing on their home court with a chance to win three in a row.