Houston redshirt-freshman guard Caleb Mills hit a three-point shot to give his team a one-point lead with seven minutes and 57 seconds remaining in the game.
Mills’ shot gave Houston (12-3, 2-0 The American Athletic Conference) a lead that it did not relinquish as it beat Temple (9-5, 1-2 The AAC) 78-74 Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center.
Before Mills’ shot, the Owls led 58-56 after a layup from redshirt-junior guard Monty Scott gave Temple its first lead of the game.
After going into halftime down 39-27, the Owls started the second half on a 12-2 run to make the score 41-39. The Owls outscored the Cougars 47-39 in the second half.
After Scott’s layup, the Cougars ended the game on a 22-18 run.
“It was our defense and we started rebounding a lot,” junior guard Nate Pierre-Louis said. “The lead went back down and we stopped rebounding the basketball. We started getting to the foul line. We got to the foul line 20-plus times. That’s one of our goals. That’s what helped us get back into the game- getting easy buckets.”
The Cougars’ dominance on the boards allowed them to get second-chance opportunities. The Cougars outrebounded the Owls 54-32. The Cougars held a 23-8 on offensive rebounds, which allowed them to score 19 second-chance points to the Owls’ eight.
“I thought that was the difference in the game,” coach Aaron McKie said. “If you look at the numbers, it will say that we shot 42 percent [from the field], 46 percent from three, 76 [percent] from the line. But when you give up 19 second-chance points, it’s kinda hard.”
Mills led all scorers with 23 points. Mills shot 9-of-16 from the field and made three out of his five three-point attempts.
“He made some big shots for them,” McKie said. “Just some unorthodox, big shots. We knew coming into the game that he was an offensive force. He’s a freshman, but he’s certainly capable of being able to carry their team offensively and they went to him to their credit.”
Redshirt-junior guard DeJon Jarreau and redshirt-senior center Chris Harris Jr. scored 11 points each. Harris grabbed 12 rebounds to earn a double-double. Harris also recorded three blocks.
Sophomore guard Nate Hinton recorded a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. He also recorded five assists.
Owls’ senior guard Quinton Rose led the team with 21 points. Rose shot 5-of-10 from the field and made two of his three three-point attempts. Rose also made nine of his 11 free-throw attempts.
Pierre-Louis added 13 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Pierre-Louis guarded Cougars sophomore guard Quentin Grimes for most of the game and held him to four points.
“We need [Pierre-Louis] out on the floor,” McKie said. “Definitely, he does a really good job for us. I thought he did a really good job on Quentin Grimes and keeping him quiet. He’s one of the guys they rely on offensively. I thought Nate did a good job of wearing him down. We need him out there doing that and pestering guys out on the floor.”
Next, the Owls will take on another conference opponent in Tulane (9-5, 1-1 The AAC) on Saturday at the Liacouras Center at noon.