Temple drops fourth straight with loss to Rice

Temple Men’s Basketball found a groove to start the second half but struggled to close out, losing to Rice 69-66 Saturday afternoon at The Liacouras Center.

Steve Settle's 15 points not enough in Temple's 69-66 loss to Rice University. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After losing three straight conference games, Temple Men’s Basketball returned from its two-game road trip desperately hoping to get back on track.

Temple hosted Rice, who was in the midst of a five-game losing streak dating back more than a month. However, Rice found an early groove in North Philadelphia, knocking down seven three-pointers in the first half and picking up its first win in the American Athletic Conference.

Temple (8-11, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) fell to Rice (7-11, 1-4 AAC) 69-66 Saturday afternoon at The Liacouras Center. Temple opened the second half with seven consecutive points but could not maintain its momentum and the team dropped its fourth straight game.

“I’m proud of the way we played in the second half,” said Temple head coach Adam Fisher. “That’s the team I expect. I’ve gotta do a better job; it starts with me. I have to have us ready. If we’re not ready, we will play the guys we know are ready. It’s that simple.”

Rice held a 13-point lead at the half, but the roles reversed coming out of the locker rooms as Temple found its rhythm. Rice didn’t make another three-pointer until halfway through the second half and shot 20 percent in the period after shooting lights out from three in the first half.

Temple raced out to a 13-4 run behind guard Hysier Miller and brought themselves within single digits. Miller missed just one shot during the entire second half and finished with 24 points. Forward Steve Settle III’s 15 points also helped give Temple its first lead of the game with about 12 minutes remaining.

“Coming into this game, I had the same approach as for any other game,” Miller said. “Same warm-up, same routine, nothing different. I just think I made better decisions with some of the shots I took, and I was confident shooting the ball today.”

Temple went up six points with eight minutes left but could never put the game out of reach. The team missed nine of its last 11 shots while Rice pushed past, taking the lead in the final two minutes and holding on for the win after Temple guard Matteo Picerelli missed a three as time expired.

Settle finished with 15 points after missing Temple’s previous game against Southern Methodist on Jan. 16, but his defense made the biggest impact. He helped force 13 Rice turnovers and pulled Temple within a point with 21 seconds remaining.

“[Settle] battled,” Fisher said. “This was his first game back, played him 30 minutes. That’s what we expect of him, and he knows that. He’s a leader on this team, and we expect him to make big plays offensively and defensively.”

Rice guard Mehki Mason was the team’s main contributor, finishing with 20 points in the contest. Guards Travis Evee and Alem Huseinovic were the only other Rice players to score in double figures.

Temple’s performance in the first half was a big reason they lost. The team shot just 20 percent from beyond the arc and its defense looked lazy and uninterested, which Rice took advantage of by scoring 20 of its 41 points in the paint.

“We’ve just been coming out flat,” Miller said. “We’ve got good game plans; we just need to execute them. Guys’ve gotta be on the same page. Energy and focus will help us a lot, as a collective group.”

Guard Jordan Riley scored eight of his 12 points in the first half on 6-13 shooting, but he and Miller were Temple’s only means of production. Riley showed off his athleticism with multiple layups and a dunk. Guards Shane Dezonie and Jahlil White did not help on the offensive end as they combined for just eight points on 3-11 shooting.

Fisher felt the team has a lot to look at with how they start games after going down 15-0 against SMU and coming out flat defensively against Rice. 

“I’m disappointed with how we played in the first half,” Fisher said. “We didn’t come out and play Temple basketball to start this game. This league’s too good. You can’t let teams start 15-0. If you’re gonna come back, you can’t let teams get a 13-point lead at halftime.”

Temple will look to snap its losing streak when they host South Florida (10-5, 3-1 AAC) at The Liacouras Center on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.