With three minutes left in the first half on Sunday, an air-balled shot by Houston came right to sophomore guard Quinton Rose.
He couldn’t catch the ball, and it rolled out of bounds before redshirt-senior guard Josh Brown nor freshman forward De’Vondre Perry could save it.
Rebounding has been a problem for Temple (15-12, 7-8 American Athletic Conference) throughout the season, but it was never as bad as it was in an 80-59 loss to Houston (21-5, 11-3 The American) at the Liacouras Center.
Temple entered play with a negative 3.6 rebounding margin, which ranked 306th out of 351 Division I teams and last in The American by nearly two rebounds.
Houston, which entered with the 19th-best rebounding margin in Division I, outrebounded Temple by 31 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
The Owls had their second performance with less than 25 rebounds this season. The first came in a loss on Dec. 3 to George Washington University. They had a negative 31 rebounding margin, which far surpassed the negative-18 mark they had against the University of Georgia on Dec. 22 for their worst of the season.
“Their speed, quickness and basketball IQ was way better than ours today,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “They sprinted to the rim and got it. When a long shot was taken, they had a plan and they beat us to the ball way too many times.”
Fran Dunphy https://t.co/hMqzFFKNMg— Evan Easterling (@Evan_Easterling) February 18, 2018
Houston entered the game coming off a win against Cincinnati on Thursday in Texas. Cincinnati (23-4, 12-2 The American), which is ranked fifth in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, hadn’t lost a conference game before Thursday and had a 16-game winning streak.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson wanted to ensure his team didn’t have a letdown against the Owls. He put his players through what he called a “spirited” workout on Sunday morning before the game. The Cougars earned their fifth straight win.
Temple nearly had a big win of its own on Thursday. The Owls had a 14-point lead on the road against No. 19 Wichita State (21-5, 11-3 The American), but they allowed the Shockers to shoot 66.7 percent from the field and score 51 points in the second half.
The loss to Wichita State ended Temple’s five-game winning streak. After back-to-back losses to the second and third place teams in The American, the Owls have fallen from fifth to seventh place in The American.
Temple will play fifth-place Central Florida on Feb. 25 and will face fourth-place Tulsa to close the regular season on March 4 in Oklahoma. After Sunday’s game, Temple dropped five spots in the Ratings Percentage Index to No. 45, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
Dunphy felt that assistant coach Chris Clark helped prepare the team well for the Cougars through film study and practice. But Temple “came out really flat,” freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis said.
Nate Pierre-Louis and Quinton Rose https://t.co/NKCCJX4s5K— Evan Easterling (@Evan_Easterling) February 18, 2018
Houston scored the first 15 points of the game, including eight in the first two minutes. Junior guard Corey Davis Jr. scored nine of his game-high 20 points during the stretch. He made three of his six 3-point attempts during the span.
The Owls took three shots that missed the rim within the first six minutes and didn’t score until the 13-minute, 34-second mark of the first half.
“We weren’t competing out there,” Pierre-Louis. “I think that we really lost the game off the start of the game.”
The Owls couldn’t make more than two consecutive baskets in the first half without Houston countering with points of its own.
“We never let them breathe,” Sampson said. “Our big thing, against this team especially, is we have to hold them to one shot. And then at other end, we’re constantly chasing rebounds.”
Kelvin Sampson https://t.co/88LjUwfbhR— Evan Easterling (@Evan_Easterling) February 18, 2018
Temple made the first two field goals of the second half before Houston went on an 18-3 run to take its largest lead, 59-27, with 12:32 left. Redshirt-senior forward Devin Davis scored eight of his 16 points during the run. He also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Rose had the Owls’ best shooting day with 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Pierre-Louis and freshman forward J.P. Moorman II combined for 23 points off the bench.
When Central Florida comes to the Liacouras Center on Feb. 25, the Owls will be looking to break a three-game losing streak against the Knights. Central Florida held Temple to 39 points and 32.1 percent shooting on Jan. 7 in Orlando, Florida.
“I think [Central Florida] is a terrific defensive basketball team, and they can make shots as well,” Dunphy said. “But the thing that’s troublesome is that they’re going to defend us as well as they will, so we’re going to have to figure ways to get some better shots than we have in the last couple of times we’ve played them.”