Sandwiched between freshman guard Levan Shawn Alston, Jr. and video coordinator Chris Clark, Obi Enechionyia sat in a black Under Armour chair on the Owls’ bench as he watched his squad fall behind in the first half of Temple’s (6-6, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) 77-50 loss Saturday to Houston at the Liacouras Center.
Playing five minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls in the first one minute, 25 seconds of the game, the sophomore forward was held scoreless on one shot attempt.
“It destroys some of our flow, there is no question about it,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “But we have next man up kind of thing, and we have to do a better job of that.”
Enechionyia, who finished the game with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting, leads the team with 35 fouls despite totaling 247 minutes and appearing in 10 games this season.
“It was a little harder, but we have to adjust,” senior guard Quenton DeCosey said of playing without Enechionyia. “We got guys coming off the bench that have to step up when Obi picks up fouls in the first half.
The Owls shot 34 percent from the field Saturday, including 3-of-23 from 3-point range. None of the 10 players that saw action for Temple totaled double figures in scoring.
Senior guard Quenton Decosey, who tied Enechionyia with a team-high nine points, was the lone player to shoot more than 50 percent from the field.
“I think they definitely played harder than us today,” DeCosey said.
In the team’s 77-70 win Dec. 29 against Cincinnati, the No. 22 team in the AP Top 25 poll, the Owls shot 50 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
“We beat a great team in Cincinnati, and to come back home and play a game like this is really tough,” DeCosey said.
Sophomore guard Rob Gray, Jr. led the Cougars in scoring with 23 points. The guard came into Saturday’s game as The American’s leading scorer, totaling 18.5 points per game.
“I’ve been particularly impressed as I’ve watched film,” Dunphy said. “He’s a really, really good basketball player. He has great vision. He gets 23 points, but he also gets six assists today.”
Three Cougars totaled 10-or-more points, including redshirt-junior guard Ronnie Johnson, who scored 17 points.
“They got a lot of easy opportunities,” senior forward Jaylen Bond said. “We didn’t play a great defensive game this time around.”
The Owls turned the ball over 14 times, including nine times in the first half. The team’s 14 turnovers tied a season high set in the team’s 79-70 win against Fairleigh Dickinson University Dec. 2.
Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Owls averaged 8.5 turnovers per game, which ranked No. 1 in Division I out of 346 teams.
“We didn’t do a good job of anything today, whether it was effort or execution or whatever it happens to be,” Dunphy said. “We did not play our best basketball game. … We didn’t have the necessary good to go today.”
The Owls dished out six assists, which set a season low and was the first time the team did not total double-digit assists. Saturday’s loss also marked the first time this season the Owls totaled more turnovers than assists.
Houston jumped out to an 8-5 early after Enechionyia picked up his second foul on an illegal screen at the 18:35 mark in the first half.
Dunphy’s squad cut the Cougars’ lead to three, 17-14, with 9:18 remaining in the first half, but Houston went on a 23-4 run to close the half to take a 40-21 lead at halftime.
Temple shot 31 percent from field in the first half, including 0-12 from 3-point range.
“We had some decent looks in the first half,” Dunphy said. “We don’t shoot it. We don’t shoot it well.”
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise