No. 24 Houston is off to its best start in 50 seasons thanks to calculated scheduling and a killer streak at home, but neither of those aspects will help when it hosts scrappy LSU on Wednesday at the new Fertitta Center.
Houston (8-0) made its season debut in the Associated Press Top 25 this week after a 63-53 victory on Saturday at Oklahoma State for its best since the 1969-70 season.
Armoni Brooks had a team-high 23 points and eight rebounds to lead Houston, his fourth game this season with 20 or more points.
Houston can match the 1969-70 squad for the second-best start with a win over LSU, which is the first game of a season-long seven-game homestand
Houston has a 21-game home winning streak. After posting a 15-0 record at Texas Southern's HPE Arena during the $60 million renovation of Fertitta Center, the Cougars have won their first six home games in 2018-19 for the nation's second-longest active home winning streak.
"Some of that has to do with your schedule," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. "We're a good team; we're not a great team. I think our team can get better as we go."
Guards Corey Davis Jr. and Brooks lead the Cougars at 16.5 points per game and rank among the American Athletic Conference top 10 scoring leaders.
Brooks is averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds per game and is one of only two players to rank among the AAC's top 10 leaders in scoring and rebounding. He also leads the conference with 4.1 3-point field goals made per game and a 45.8 3-point field goal percentage.
Guard Galen Robinson Jr. leads the Cougars and the AAC with 6.3 assists per game.
"Our purpose is for this stretch to be really tough," Sampson said. "Coaches know how to schedule, because they know their team. That's why coaches should schedule the games.
"This upcoming stretch is by far the toughest stretch since I've been in Houston. I just want to see us compete. I just want to see us keep getting better."
LSU (7-2) heads to Houston with a two-game winning streak. Its most recent victory was a runaway 91-50 home destruction of Incarnate Word on Sunday.
Freshman forward Naz Reid and freshman guard Ja'vonte Smart tied for team-high honors with 16 points apiece, with forward Kavell Bigby-Williams adding 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds and guard Skylar Mays pitching in 13 points and a game-high six assists.
The win over Incarnate Word came after LSU had an extended break for final exams and a series of demanding, physical practices to prepare for the road ahead.
"It was a good win coming out of exams," LSU coach Will Wade said. "Sometimes those aren't the easiest ballgames. But we handled business."
A casualty of the physical nature of the practices was forward Emmitt Williams, LSU's leading rebounder. He was sidelined for the game against Incarnate Word after needing stitches to close a cut lip suffered during a rebounding drill in practice.
"You practice tough; you typically play tough," Wade said. "You practice soft, you play soft. I think we've been practicing a little bit tougher and I think we'll be a little bit tougher.
"Now will that be tough enough to win those games? We'll find out, but I think we will be tougher than we've been."
Wade said Emmitt Williams is expected to return for the game at Houston.
Mays leads four Tigers averaging double digits with 13.9 points per game. Reid ranks second with 12.1 points per game, and guard Tremont Waters and Smart are tied for third at 11.4 points per game.
Emmitt Williams leads LSU with 7.1 rebounds per game and Waters is averaging 5.6 assists per game.
The home team has won the last three meetings in the series, including the past two by LSU in Baton Rouge in 2016 and 2017.