Houston Cougars basketball shooting struggles haunt team in loss to Temple Owls

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (13730726t) Houston’s Marcus Sasser (0) walks off the court after an NCAA college basketball game against Temple, in Houston. Temple won 56-55 Temple Basketball, Houston, United States – 22 Jan 2023

Houston Cougars basketball shooting struggles haunt team in loss to Temple Owls

The Houston Cougars basketball team struggled to put the biscuit in the basket on Sunday afternoon against Temple.

All game long, UH’s shots bounced in and out of the rim. The Cougars (18-2, 6-1 American Athletic) could not hit their free throws, and the Fertitta Center was as dormant as it had been all season long until the final stretch of the game. And yet, somehow, Houston almost pulled off an improbable come-from-behind win, but it just could not get over the hump as it fell 56-55.

A last-second play drawn up by Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson saw redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark come free after running in a circle and into a screen from senior Reggie Chaney that freed him up for a potential walk-off layup, but it fell just short. It was a play that couldn’t produce a better look, Sampson said. It just did not fall, which was the story of Houston’s night.

“Emanuel [Sharp] had one that went in and out. Jarace [Walker’s] ball seemed like it was dancing on top of the rim all night,” Sampson stated. “It was just one of those nights where we couldn’t get one to go down. Jamal [Shead] had one there at the end. Even the last play with the layup that Tramon missed. It’s easy to say it was just one of those nights, but at the same time, you just got to give Temple credit.”

Houston held Temple without a field goal for the final 7:18 of the game. Owls sophomore forward Zach Hicks hit a 3-pointer that put Temple in front, 53-47. It was the final non-free throw shot it made in the contest.

The Owls (12-9, 6-2 AAC) shot an impressive 20-of-22 from the free-throw line against the Cougars on Sunday. In comparison, Houston struggled mightily from the charity stripe, shooting just 11-of-21. It was one of the reasons why Temple left Fertitta Center with a victory. For UH, each missed just increased the team’s frustration.

“As a team, when you start missing like that, especially some of our younger guys, start pressing probably,” Sampson said. “Free throws can get mental like anything else. I do know they weren’t trying to miss them. They were trying to make them. It’s not a fair fight when one team goes 20-for-22, and the other one goes 11-for-21.”

As a team, Houston struggled to find a groove offensively. Shead, the Cougars’ leading scorer, had 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Sasser, who had 12 points, was just 4-of-11 on the night. UH overall shot just 19-of-56 from the floor.

“They just had a good team defense,” Houston Cougars senior guard Marcus Sasser said. “You know, they played in the passing lanes and helped on certain people, double-teamed the post good. I would say overall, their team defense was just kind of difficult to score on.”

With the loss, Houston’s lead in the AAC falls to just a half-game, as the Cougars have one less loss than the Owls, who are now second in the conference. UH’s loss to Temple also ended a nine-game winning streak.

For Sampson, the message to his team will stay the same, he said. He never overreacts to a win or loss. The biggest thing is to reinforce to his kids that they still have a good team. All of Houston’s dreams and goals are still in front of it. The team had a bit of a road bump on Sunday, but now all the attention turns to Wednesday at Central Florida, he added.

Until then, all the credit goes to the Owls, the head coach stated.

“On nights like this, you need a break here and a break there,” Sampson said. “Sometimes the other team gets all the breaks, and sometimes you don’t, but sometimes you earn those breaks, and I think that is what Temple did tonight. They earned theirs.”

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