No. 1 Houston Cougars basketball loses in a heartbreaker to Temple, 56-55

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (13730726h) Houston’s Jamal Shead (1) tries to steal the ball from Temple’s Khalif Battle during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston Temple Basketball, Houston, United States – 22 Jan 2023

No. 1 Houston Cougars basketball loses in a heartbreaker to Temple, 56-55

In a slow-paced, low-scoring affair on Sunday afternoon inside Fertitta Center, the Houston Cougars basketball team saw its nine-game winning streak come to an end against the Temple Owls, falling 56-55.

First-ranked Houston seemed to be playing catch-up from the opening minutes when Temple struck first with a 3-point basket from sophomore forward Zach Hicks. However, it was the game’s final six minutes when things got really exciting.

With Houston (18-2, 6-1 American Athletic) trailing 55-48, redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark pulled up and hit a fast-break jumper that cut Houston’s deficit to 55-50.

After a stop, the Cougars got another basket from junior forward J’Wan Roberts off an assist from senior big man Reggie Chaney. Temple’s lead was down to just three.

The Cougars got a lucky break when Mark lost the handle of the ball and it ricocheted off multiple players but it was off a Temple player last. Houston inbounded the ball after a media timeout and got a 3-point attempt from senior guard Marcus Sasser, but it did not drop.

After two defensive stops, Houston failed to score again. The Owls were so close to the finish line until Roberts got a clutch steal off Hicks, converted a tough layup, and was fouled. He then hit the free throw to tie the game at 55.

Redshirt sophomore guard Damian Dunn split a pair of free throws to give the Owls the one-point edge again. After Houston had a discombobulated offensive possession, head coach Kelvin Sampson called a timeout, which was followed by a 3-point basket from Shead, but he missed.

The Owls went down the court and got a contested layup attempt from Dunn, but he missed everything, including the rim. Even though Temple graduate student Kur Jongkuch got the offensive rebound, the Owls were still given a turnover after officials reviewed the play and determined it was a shot clock violation.

Shead was able to get all the way to the rim on the next possession for a layup but was blocked by Jongkuch. Houston drew up one final play with 1.3 seconds left that led to Mark having a great opportunity after the inbound on the baseline, but like much of the night, the ball was just short, and Houston could not walk it off.

The first eight minutes of the game was a seesaw battle between the two teams, but it was the Owls that created separation first, building a six-point advantage, 18-12, with 10:18 in the first half.

Houston trailed until the 3:23 mark in the period when Mark rose up for a mid-range pull-up jumper and missed, but freshman forward Jarace Walker got in the mix for the ball and caused the ball to go out of bounds off an Owls’ player, allowing UH to retain possession.

The play was immediately followed by a media timeout, but after the break, the Cougars got a layup from Walker that was set up by a series of dribble moves from Sasser, who was then able to attack the paint and dish it out to the forward for a layup that gave UH a 25-24 lead.

Houston and Temple were tied at 30 going into the halftime break. The Owls continued to peck at the Cougars in the second half. Temple jumped out to 35-31 and 39-35 leads that Houston had to claw its way out of.

For Houston, Sasser scored 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He also had five assists in the game. Walker had nine points and 12 rebounds.

Things got heated toward the middle of the second half when Sampson was called for a technical foul following a call that went against Sasser. After all the free throws were shot, Temple held a 47-44 edge with 10:09 remaining in the game.

Junior guard Jamal Shead ended the contest with 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Mark struggled to shoot the ball against the Owls as well. He went 2-of-9 from the field on Sunday, scoring just six points.

The Houston Cougars basketball team returns to the floor in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday evening when it plays against Central Florida. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. CT and stream on ESPN+.

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