Top-ranked Houston will look for its 10th consecutive win when it hosts Temple on Sunday afternoon in an American Athletic Conference matchup.
The Cougars (18-1, 6-0 AAC) return home after an 80-60 dismantling of Tulane in New Orleans on Tuesday. Marcus Sasser led Houston with 23 points, thanks largely to seven 3-pointers. J’Wan Roberts added 15 points, Jamal Shead had 14 and Tramon Mark hit for 12 points in the win.
Houston led for the last 34 minutes, was up by eight points at the break and never let the Green Wave get closer than five in the second half.
“When we’re on our stuff, we’re a pretty good team and we’re hard to beat,” Shead said. “J’Wan brought it today, Marcus was electric, Tramon was electric. I didn’t expect (a 20-point win), but I’m happy with it.”
The Cougars, who had not played for six days prior to the Tuesday win, had little to no rust and were able to counter every punch from a talented Tulane team. Sasser produced his own 8-0 run to begin the second half.
“Marcus, more than any, is a winner,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He’s been putting a lot of time in. His confidence is starting to match his shots. Our guys know how to win on the road, and we came into here (on Tuesday) with the same mindset.”
Temple (11-9, 5-2) heads to Houston after a 73-58 home win over East Carolina on Wednesday. The Owls have alternated wins and losses in their past five games, but they have five victories in their past seven contests. Temple is tied for second with Cincinnati and Tulane in the league standings, 1 1/2 games behind Houston.
Damian Dunn came off the bench to lead the Owls with 22 points in the win over the Pirates, with 16 of his points coming from the free-throw line.
Khalif Battle added 20 points for Temple, which shot 52 percent from the floor in the second half while holding East Carolina to 28.6 percent shooting. The Owls forced 17 turnovers on the night while committing just eight, and they rallied from five points down at the break.
“At halftime I said, ‘We played more like a team that was just fighting to be at the bottom more so than being at the top of the conference,’” Temple coach Aaron McKie said. “I said. ‘We’re better than that. We didn’t match their physicality. We didn’t match their energy. We didn’t match their effort.’ And those are things you shouldn’t have to ask for.”
Temple will play the No. 1 team for the 21st time in program history, having earned just two wins in the previous 20 contests. The Owls have not beaten any ranked team since earning a 63-53 decision over No. 16 Wichita State on Jan. 15, 2020.
“We get a wonderful opportunity to play against the best team in the country,” McKie said. “I told (my players), ‘If we start the way we started the first 10 minutes (against East Carolina), the game will be over by halftime. But if we go out there and play the way we’re capable of playing with energy and effort, we can match Houston.’”
–Field Level Media