Temple opened its American Athletic Conference basketball schedule with games against the preseason favorite and another team that rarely loses at home.
It won’t get any easier when the Owls (11-3 overall, 1-1 AAC) play their first conference home game of the season Wednesday against No. 17 Houston (15-0, 2-0).
Temple opened its AAC schedule with last Wednesday’s 78-73 loss at preseason conference favorite Central Florida. The Owls rebounded Sunday with a wild, 85-81 overtime win at Wichita State, scoring the final 11 points in regulation to force the extra period. That dropped Wichita State’s record to 77-5 at Charles Koch Arena over the last six seasons.
“It meant a lot because that is one of the toughest places to play in college basketball,” Temple senior guard Shizz Alston said before practice Tuesday.
Alston scored 22 points and had seven of Temple’s 11 points in overtime. He has become a go-to player late in games
“Last year, we really didn’t have a guy to take over and we would pass the ball around, and whoever got it shot the ball,” Alston said about late-game situations a year ago. “This year, I am trying to take that on my shoulders, a guy trying to take over at the end of the game.”
Wichita State has made seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, but at 7-7, the Shockers will need to go on a run to get in this season. Still, that is a tough venue to play and Temple, which trailed by as many as 15 points, showed grit in coming back.
To have a chance to defeat Houston, the Owls must get off to a better start. Against UCF, Temple trailed by 37-28 at halftime. Sunday, the Owls trailed Wichita State, 45-32, at intermission.
Last year, Houston won an 80-59 decision at Temple after scoring the first 15 points.
While there is a little more motivation playing an unbeaten and nationally ranked team, Temple is more inspired by attempting to make up for last year’s home loss.
“They beat us pretty bad last year and that is the thing we are thinking about, trying to get revenge,” Alston said.
Houston, which has key nonleague home wins over Oregon and LSU and a big road victory at Oklahoma State, is coming off Sunday’s 90-77 home victory over Memphis. Junior guard Armoni Brooks had 22 points and hit six three-pointers to pace the win.
The Cougars have just two double-figure scorers, but seven players average six or more points. The double-digit scorers are 6-foot-1 senior Corey Davis Jr. (15.5 ppg.) and Brooks (14.9 ppg.). Brooks also averages a team-high 7.3 rebounds.
This is a guard-oriented Houston team, with 6-1 senior Galen Robinson Jr. third in scoring, averaging 9.1 points.
“They have probably the most firepower we have seen,” Alston said of the Cougars.
Alston (19.4 ppg.) is one of Temple’s three double-figure scorers, joining 6-8 junior Quinton Rose (16.4 ppg.) and 6-4 sophomore Nate Pierre-Louis (13.2 ppg.).