Houston ascended to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 rankings in late December following a 7-0 start to the season that included an 11-point victory Texas Tech. But just one day after reaching the top-5 for the first time since the 1983-84 season, the Cougars dropped a 65-64 heartbreaker at Tulsa and soon dropped back to No. 11 in the AP poll.
Despite losing AAC Preseason Player of the Year Caleb Mills to the transfer portal in the weeks since that loss, Houston (12-1, 7-1 AAC) has rebounded magnificently, winning its past five five games by an average margin of 17.2 points while surging back to No. 8 in the AP poll entering Saturday’s game against Temple. The Cougars were originally scheduled to play Cincinnati on Saturday until COVID-19 issues forced the postponement of that matchup.
The shuffled schedule means the Owls (3-3. 2-3) have the displeasure of facing the AAC’s clear frontrunner for the second time in just their seventh game of the season. Houston won the first meeting 76-50 back in Dec. 22. But Temple has won two straight as it finally begins to get in a rhythm amid the stops and starts of this unique season.
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- When: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
- Where: Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
- OTT: CBS Sports App (Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast)
Houston: The Cougars ended last season at 23-8 with a co-AAC title, and it looked for a moment like they could get their top six rotation players back to keep the momentum going. Then came Nate Hinton’s decision to stay in the NBA Draft and Fabian White’s season-ending knee injury. Finally, on Jan. 5, the program announced Mills’ intent to transfer. Though the absence of that trio has left Houston without three of its top four scorers from last season, the Cougars have kept rolling anyway. Excellent defense and the development of guards Marcus Sasser and Quentin Grimes help explain why. Grimes entered the weekend ranked second in the AAC in scoring at 17.8 points per game. Sasser is fourth at 16.5 points per game, which more than doubles his scoring output from his last season.
Temple: The sample size is still small for Temple, considering it has played just six games. But one stat that catches the eye is the 3-point shooting mark of Dartmouth transfer Brendan Berry. The 6-2 guard is knocking down 54.5% of his 3-pointers on 5.5 attempts per game. But the offense truly revolves around 6-5 guard Damian Dunn, who is leading the team with 15.8 points per game. The redshirt freshman will be seeking a bit of redemption after scoring just seven points and failing to convert a single shot from the field in the December loss to Houston.
Game prediction, pick
This Houston team is on an absolute tear and already has a 26-point victory over Temple on the resume. The Owls should be more competitive this time as they play on their home court on the heels of consecutive league victories. Still, the Cougars are an elite defensive squad poised to capitalize on Temple’s offensive struggles. Prediction: Houston 74, Temple 59
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