Third-ranked Houston will look to avenge a home loss to Temple when the teams engage in an American Athletic Conference rematch Sunday in Philadelphia.
The Cougars, then ranked No. 1, fell 56-55 to the Owls on Jan. 22.
Since that setback, Houston (21-2, 9-1 AAC) has defeated UCF 82-71, Cincinnati 75-69 and Wichita State 70-61 on Thursday.
Against the Shockers, Jarace Walker and Marcus Sasser each scored 15 points and the Cougars rallied from a seven-point deficit in the second half. Jamal Shead added 13 points and seven assists.
“We are showing signs of maturity, not getting too high or too low,” Shead said after Houston won for the seventh straight time on the road. “We are following our leader, Marcus. When he came in and started to do his thing, we rallied behind him.”
All five starters scored in double figures in the hard-fought victory. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the Cougars found another way to win with strong defense down the stretch.
“We made some bad mistakes, but when it came (to) winning time, I think our DNA kicked in,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We know how to win, and there is a lot to be said about that.”
The Cougars will face another difficult opponent, as Temple is the only team to defeat them in conference play this season.
Houston did win the programs’ previous six matchups before the one-point defeat this season.
Temple will look for its fifth consecutive victory overall when it battles Houston.
The Owls (14-9, 8-2) can pull even with Houston in conference play with a win.
Following a loss to Memphis on Jan. 15, Temple has defeated East Carolina, Houston, South Florida and UCF, the last two wins coming in overtime.
In the Owls’ 77-70 victory over the Knights on Jan. 28, Khalif Battle led the way with 26 points, including nine in overtime. Jamille Reynolds scored 16 points, and Hysier Miller added 13.
Now the Owls turn all of their focus into another huge matchup against Houston.
“Probably the biggest one of our season so far just to validate everything we’ve been doing and to put a stamp on how good we are,” said guard Damian Dunn, who is the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.9 points per game.
“Having the opportunity to knock off a top-10 team two times in a row in the matter of 10 days is a big opportunity for us. As long as we prepare the right way, come in and have good hard practice days, we’ll be fine,” Dunn said.
The 6-foot-11 Reynolds, who missed 10 games earlier this season due to a thumb injury, is giving the Owls a major boost.
“(Reynolds provides) that interior offensive presence that you have to really concentrate on,” Temple coach Aaron McKie said. “Sometimes you can throw blind passes because he’s athletic enough to go up and get it, but he also can go up and score it.
“Just knowing Houston and what they do, they try to take those guys out of the game with double teams and stuff, but he’s somebody that’s going to be on the board for them, and we’ll see how we can use him to help us offensively.”
–Field Level Media