(SportsRadio 610) - For the second straight home game, the Houston Cougars found themselves in a nail-biter.
Battling back from a seven-point deficit, 54-48 with 6:37 remaining in the second half, the Cougars put the clamps down defensively, went on a 7-1 run down the stretch.
Junior guard Tramon Mark missed a good look in the paint from an alley-oop inbounds pass with just over a second left on the game clock as the Temple Owls (12-9/6-2 AAC) pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college basketball this season, beating the Cougars 56-55 Sunday afternoon at the Fertitta Center.
Less than two weeks ago, the Cougars (18-2/6-1 AAC) were shorthanded playing their third game in seven days, missing key contributors Jarace Walker and Ramon Walker Jr. when they hosted the University of South Florida.
However, they found a way to outlast USF 83-77, behind a career-high 31 points from Marcus Sasser.
Sasser hit a dagger three-pointer and made key free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
Following that victory over South Florida, head coach Kelvin Sampson said he and his team learned they could find a way to win without their “best fastball” and were fortunate to escape with a win.
“I mean, knock on wood, we’ve dodged a lot of bullets this year, in terms of injuries and stuff,” Sampson said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to get lucky. I thought we got lucky tonight, we could’ve lost that game.”
Just 12 days later, while they were healthier and rested, it appeared someone forgot to "knock" as the Cougars couldn’t come up with a big basket down the stretch against the Owls.
Houston struggled to shoot the ball all game long, finishing just 34% from the field.
Free throw shooting was especially off the mark Sunday as well, as the Cougars made just 52% of their attempts (11/21) from the line.
Jamal Shead led the Cougars in scoring with 13 points on just 4-of-16 shooting while Sasser struggled from the field with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
While the Cougars struggled to score the ball, they made the necessary adjustments defensively holding Temple without a field goal for the final 7:18 and just 5-of-21 shooting in the second half.
“It gave us a chance, again we held them to five for twenty-one the second half,” Sampson said. “You hold a team to five for twenty-one, y’all have to win and we didn’t.”
Sampson said he’d watch the film as soon as he could, but to focus too much on one game isn’t his style.
“The thing they need to hear is that we still have a good team,” Sampson said. “We had a bad day, but we still have a good team. All of our dreams and goals are still in front of us. You know we hit a little bit of a road jump today, I’ll make sure they know that. We’ll watch the film and show where our mistakes occurred, slap’em on the back and say let’s go get’em Wednesday.”
Shaun Bijani has spent the last 16 years covering the Houston sports scene for SportsRadio 610. Follow him on Twitter @ShaunBijani.