No. 3 Houston Cougars basketball blitzes Temple in the second half to avenge its lone conference loss

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Phelan M Ebenhack/AP/Shutterstock (13744223cr) Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) passes the ball while defended by Central Florida forward Lahat Thioune, second from left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Orlando, Fla Houston UCF Basketball, Orlando, United States – 25 Jan 2023

No. 3 Houston Cougars basketball blitzes Temple in the second half to avenge its lone conference loss

PHILADELPHIA — No. 3 Houston Cougars basketball used a 13-0 run to open the second half and blow past the Temple Owls to atone for its only conference loss of the season on Sunday with an 81-65 victory.

It was a tale of two halves for the teams, but the one constant was the strong offensive performance from freshman forward Jarace Walker. It allowed the Cougars (22-2, 10-1 American Athletic) to overcome a hot first half by Temple from 3-point land and leave Philadelphia with a win.

At halftime, it was Houston that trailed 37-33. Walker scored his 17th and 18th points of the contest on a jumper in the paint to open the second half.

Junior forward J’Wan Roberts followed it up with a hook shot. Coincidentally, the Cougars got the lead in the second period off a pair of free throws from redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark, and they never looked back.

Walker continued his scoring onslaught with a driving layup to the basket. Senior guard Marcus Sasser added a layup and then split a pair of free throws. Junior guard Jamal Shead’s layup gave the Cougars a 46-37 lead before the Owls scored to end the half-opening run.

When it was all said and done, Houston went on a 17-4 run in the first nine minutes of the second half to build an 11-point lead and keep Temple at bay. Temple’s crowd, which was energized throughout the first half, had become an anxious and deflated bunch by the 11-minute mark of the period.

The second half was a 180-degree turn from the Owls’ red-hot first period.

The Temple Owls did most of their damage in the first half from behind the arc. The Owls went a scorching 9-of-17 on their 3-pointers, which accounted for 27 of their 37 first-half points. Redshirt sophomore guard Khalif Battle hit three 3-pointers in the opening period. He led Temple with 11 points at the break. He finished with 24 for the game.

Walker played an instrumental role in keeping Houston within striking distance at halftime, and he starred all game long. He had 16 at the break, while Sasser had eight points. Shead, senior big man Reggie Chaney and Roberts dealt with foul trouble for most of the night but ultimately did not foul out.

Walker, playing in his home state of Pennsylvania on Sunday, hit numerous backbreaking 3-pointers against the Owls, including one in the second half after Temple had cut the lead to just 53-48.

His long-range basket pushed the cushion back to eight, and it was followed by a layup on UH’s next possession, which gave the Cougars a double-digit lead again.

When it was all said and done, Walker ended the game with 23 points. Sasser had 13 points. Shead and Roberts each had 12 points.

Houston’s next game will be Wednesday at home when the Cougars face Tulsa for the second time this season.

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