It will be an AAC showdown on Thursday when the Temple Owls (15-5, 5-2 in the AAC) travel to Hofheinz Pavilion to take on the no. 13 Houston Cougars (20-1, 7-1 in the AAC).
For Temple, they are 2-2 in their last 4 games including a 72-68 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Still, it was just at the beginning of January that they upset the Cougars, giving them their lone loss on the season. Temple won that game 73-69 playing at home. Now they will see if they can upset the Cougars again, but this time on the road. For Houston, since losing to Temple, they have won 5 games in a row, including a 77-65 win over Tulsa on Sunday. Right now, coach Kelvin Sampson has his team playing some quality basketball and will look to exact some revenge against the Owls. The two will square off on Thursday with tipoff scheduled for 7:00 pm ET.
In this contest, the Houston Cougars come in as 10-point favorites playing at home. The over/under on total points scored comes in at 140.5.
By The Numbers
Defensively, Houston has been one of the best teams in the nation as they are holding opponents to just 60.2 points per game (good for 6th overall). More impressively, they rank 2nd in the nation holding opponents to just 36.4% shooting from the field and 2nd holding opponents to just 26.1% from behind the arc. Mind you, they do not have an overly brutal schedule (they have played only one top-25 team in LSU), but they still have executed well against the teams they have played. For Temple, they rank 164th in the nation, allowing 71 points per game to opponents.
On the offensive side, these two teams have been relatively similar. Houston is averaging 75.7 points per game (115th in the nation) while Temple is averaging 75.4 points (131st). Neither team is overly dominant in efficiency as Temple is shooting 44.4% from the field (188th) while Houston is shooting 43.8% (221st).
Temple Trying To Sweep Their Home And Away With Cougars
While Temple may be a bubble team at this point, at 15-5, they have still had a pretty darn good season. Hoping to get into the tournament, a second win over the 13th ranked Cougars would go a long way towards helping their resume.
For Temple, they are led by senior guard Shizz Alston Jr. He is averaging 18.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is also shooting 90.7% from the free throw line and 36.3% from behind the arc. Despite those impressive stats, he has not been overly efficient from the field as a whole as he is shooting just 38%.
Aside from Alston Jr., Temple has two others averaging double-digit scoring. Quinton Rose (17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.4 steals) and Nate-Pierre-Louis (14 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals) have both had nice seasons. Although he doesn’t score a ton (just 6.6 points per game), Ernest Aflakpui has also done a nice job contributing 7.4 rebounds per game.
Cougars Looking For Revenge At Home
This deep into the schedule, when you only have one loss, it tends to stick with you. That is no different for Kelvin Sampson’s Houston squad. They were disappointed after having a letdown at Temple and are going to look to get some revenge now that they are playing them at home.
Offensively, the Cougars are led by their backcourt duo of Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis Jr. Brooks is averaging 14.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1 assist per game. He is also shooting 39.9% from the field and 39.6% from behind the arc. For Davis, he is averaging 14.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal while shooting 40.3% from the field and 91.8% from the free throw line.
Aside from these two, they have 5 other players who are averaging 7 points or higher, so they are relatively deep in offensive threats. Still, to get their redemption, they will need Brooks and Davis Jr. to play well.
Houston Wins, But Do They Cover?
I do think that Houston gets its revenge in this game. Ultimately, Houston’s defense will be too much and between playing on their home floor and wanting to get revenge, I think a focused Cougars club will take care of business. Still, the question is whether they can cover a massive 10-point spread against a team they just recently lost to. It would not shock me to see Houston come out and really put a hurting on this Temple club this time around, but for my money, I just can’t bet that way. I think the smarter money is to take Temple and the 10 points. In Houston’s last 5 wins since that loss, 4 of the 5 have been decided by 12 points or less. Thus, while their offense is solid and their defense is spectacular, absolute blowouts are still not necessarily a regular thing. With all that in mind, I am taking Temple +10.