Temple flattened by surging Houston, hurting NCAA tournament chances

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Coach Fran Dunphy’s team came out flat against Houston.

This game was looked on as Temple’s Super Bowl, and the Owls started out much flatter than the New England Patriots.

The end wasn’t so hot either, as Temple lost an 80-59 decision to Houston on Sunday at the Liacouras Center.

Temple is  15-12, 7-8 in the American Athletic Conference, with three regular-season games remaining. Houston improved to 21-5, 11-3 and beat the Owls in both games they played this season.

Facing a Houston team that was fresh off a 67-62 home win Thursday over No. 5 Cincinnati, which in all likelihood assured the Cougars an NCAA berth, Temple needed a win to stay in realistic consideration for an at-large bid.

The Owls will now need to win the AAC tournament (or perhaps just reach the final) to get a berth.

“We have to win every game we play from here on in,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said.

Any thought that Houston would have trouble getting started after the emotional high of its first win over an Associated Press Top 5 team since 1996 was quickly dispelled when the Cougars scored the game’s first 15 points.

Houston led by as many as 26 points in the first half and held a 41-20 advantage at intermission.

“We never let them breath,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said.

Even the Patriots didn’t have that type of start in their 41-33 Super Bowl loss to the Eagles, trailing 22-12 at halftime.

Temple should have been so fortunate

The key in the first half and entire game, actually, was rebounding. Houston outrebounded the Owls, 31-9, including 11-1 on the offensive glass in the first 20 minutes. The Cougars cashed in on numerous second-chance opportunities, many of which were the product of wide open shots.

For the game, Houston outrebounded Temple 53-22, including 17-5 on the offensive glass.

“I think we got to do better taking contact,” said Temple sophomore swingman Quinton Rose, who along with freshman Nate Pierre Louis scored a team-high 13 points. “The other team always throws the first blow and we take it , and I think we have to throw the first blow, especially on the boards, and we have to crash.”

What’s more, Houston’s leading scorer, Rob Gray, had just two points in the first half, shooting 1 for 6 from the field.

Corey Davis Jr., a 6-foot-2 junior, scored 15 first-half points for Houston, hitting 5 of 6 from the field, including all five three-point attempts. He finished with a game-high 20 points.

This was reminiscent of Houston’s 77-50 win at Temple on Jan. 2, 2016. That season Temple rebounded and eventually earned an NCAA berth.

It will take much more rebounding this year for Temple to experience a similar scenario.