Halftime turnaround: Houston Cougars basketball focused on offensive adjustments to turn tide against Temple

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Chris Szagola/AP/Shutterstock (13755619j) Houston’s Marcus Sasser, right, makes his move against Temple’s Jahlil White, left, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Philadelphia. Houston won 81-65 Houston Temple Basketball, Philadelphia, United States – 05 Feb 2023

Halftime turnaround: Houston Cougars basketball focused on offensive adjustments to turn tide against Temple

When Houston Cougars basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson got to his team’s locker room against Temple on Sunday, the emphasis to his players was on offensive execution.

Despite the Temple Owls putting up 37 points in the first half, including 27 of them coming off 3-pointers and 11 from talented redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle, Sampson believed his team had contested most of the shots well. The Owls were just hitting tougher baskets. The Cougars trusted their defensive system.

“Our goal was to make them call timeout, and I think we did a good job of coming out in the second half with high energy,” Houston Cougars senior guard Marcus Sasser told Gallery Sports right after the game.

To begin the second half, Houston (22-2, 10-1 American Athletic) wanted to spread Temple out by putting two shooters at the 3-point corners on offense and letting whichever UH big man was in the game go to work off screen and rolls.

Houston wanted to put Temple’s bigs into high-pressure situations and force them to choose. If the Owls helped out their bigs to defend the Cougars’ big men rollers, the corner shot would be open. If they didn’t, Houston’s big men would have the advantage in the paint, Sampson said. UH’s adjustment worked.

The Cougars not only opened the second half on a 13-0 run that gave them a nine-point lead after trailing by four at the break, it eventually grew into a 17-4 run that Temple never recovered from.

Despite dealing with foul trouble early, Houston junior forward J’Wan Roberts was a huge benefactor from the team’s adjustment on offense. It showed with him tallying 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting in the second half.

“[Roberts] just made the whole team better,” Sasser said. “I think just using him as a facilitator, as a scorer, really helped us in the second half.”

Overall as a team, Houston’s offensive numbers skyrocketed. The Cougars shot a sensational 18-of-25 as a team in the second half, which equaled 72% shooting. 12 of those 18 made baskets came off assists from fellow UH players.

The Cougars torched the Owls with its playmaking the entire second half. For all 20 minutes, Sampson said, they passed up good shots for great ones.

“We don’t have selfish kids,” Sampson said. “They are very selfless, but one of the things we always talk to our kids about being selfless is that doesn’t mean you think less of yourself; that just means you think more of others, and that is what a good basketball team does.”

One player that had it going before Houston’s halftime adjustment was freshman forward Jarace Walker. He helped the Cougars stay within arms reach of the Owls in the first half, scoring 16 points in the opening period.

For Sampson, Sunday’s showing demonstrated how the New Freedom, Pennsylvania, native is beginning to grow even more comfortable with his role on the team.

“Jarace is starting to find his groove,” Sampson said. “Early in the year, he struggled, and even in the first half tonight, I thought he was not at his best. [At the] free-throw line, he missed the one-and-one [toward the end of the first half]. I wanted him to make the one-and-one because I knew it was our ball to start the second half, and we got a chance to double up.”

Houston’s victory over Temple was extra sweet for the Cougars, who wanted to make up for the previous meeting between the two programs when the Owls left the Fertitta Center with a win in late January.

On the first Sunday in February, the Cougars did just that.

“You seen what they did to us at our house, so for us to come into their house and do the same thing, and I think a little bit better fashion, it was good for us definitely,” Houston sophomore guard Tramon Mark told Gallery Sports. “Great win for the team tonight.”

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