Senior center Ernest Aflakpui knew he had won the game, but Houston coach Kelvin Sampson didn’t think he did.
With seven seconds left and Temple leading by two points, senior guard Corey Davis Jr., Houston’s leading scorer, took an inbound pass and sprinted the length of the court trying to send the game into overtime.
Aflakpui set his feet and let Davis run right into his chest forcing the referees to call an offensive foul, giving Temple (12-3, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) the ball back. Sophomore guard Nate Pierre-Louis made two free throws to secure a 73-67 victory against nationally ranked Houston (15-1, 2-1 The American).
Houston entered Wednesday unbeaten and ranked as the No. 17 team in the Associated Press Poll. The win marked the 12th consecutive season Temple has beaten a nationally ranked opponent.
The game-deciding foul call, however, spurred debate. Sampson immediately began to argue with the referees wanting a foul call on Aflakpui. But Aflakpui and the rest of the team had no doubt in mind which call was the correct one.
“I thought it was a block,” Sampson said. “But that would have been the first time I was right all game.”
Throughout Wednesday’s game, Sampson and officials consistently butted heads. Sampson has accessed a technical foul 10 minutes into the second half.
That sent junior guard Quinton Rose to the free throw line where he made both of his attempts. Those two free throw makes were a small part of the junior guard’s big day from the charity stripe.
Rose made 9-of-10 free throw attempts on the way to leading the Owls in scoring with 22 points.
As a team, Temple attempted 28 free throws and made 25 of those for an 89.3 percent mark, its second highest of the season. The Owls shot 28 foul shots during its overtime victory against Wichita State, but only made 17 of them.
Last season, Temple had 31 fewer rebounds than Houston in a 21 point loss to the Cougars.
Getting to the line and rebounding were a part of Temple’s game plan on Wednesday, coach Fran Dunphy said.
Temple had a seven-point lead at halftime, but Houston senior forward Breaon Brady and freshman guard Nate Hilton scoring 15 and eight second-half points respectively, made it a close game. Brady finished the night as Houston’s leading scorer with 19 points.
Pierre-Louis finished second on the Owls with 18 points. Pierre-Louis has scored 18 points or more in four consecutive games. Senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. had trouble beating the Houston defense that double-teamed him early in the game. Alston had 12 points, his second-lowest total this season, on 3-of-15 shooting.
Houston committed just 11 turnovers, tied for the third lowest by a Temple opponent this season, but the 11th decided the game.
With 1:19 left in the game, Pierre-Louis forced Cougars’ senior guard Galen Robinson Jr. to couch up the ball which led to a Rose fast-break extending the Owls’ lead to five points.
That sequence sent the Liacouras Center crowd into a frenzy.
“[The crowd] kept us juiced up throughout the game,” Rose said. “Especially towards the end. I haven’t seen them like that since I have been here.”