Aaron McKie emphasized the importance of team rebounding from the moment he took over as head coach of the Temple men’s basketball program. It has resulted in a clear improvement in the Owls’ ability to grab boards on both ends during the first half of the season.

But on Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center, Temple was simply outclassed in that area of the game. In a 78-74 loss to Houston, the third-best rebounding team in the nation, the Owls were killed on the boards and it cost them the first home conference game of the season.

Temple fell behind by as many as 15 in the first half and trailed by 12 at the break while looking totally outmatched, particularly in the paint. Houston outrebounded Temple, 32-12, in the first half and grabbed 13 offensive boards. Temple only managed two.

Fabian White, left, of Houston beats JP Moorman, right, of Temple to a rebound during the 2nd half at the Liacouras Center on Jan 7, 2020. Houston had a huge rebouinding margin.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Fabian White, left, of Houston beats JP Moorman, right, of Temple to a rebound during the 2nd half at the Liacouras Center on Jan 7, 2020. Houston had a huge rebouinding margin.

The Owls stormed back in the second half, converting offensive opportunities and finding a way to tighten up under the basket. Switching to a zone defensively also allowed Temple to take control of the pace of the game. Monty Scott’s bucket gave the Owls a 58-56 lead with just more than eight minutes to play.

But Houston responded with a 9-2 run to retake the lead and did not let it go. What could have been Temple’s most impressive win of the season against the team with the most preseason first-place votes in the conference turned into yet another close loss.

Caleb Mills paced the Cougars (12-3, 2-0 AAC) with 23 points. Quinton Rose scored 21 to lead Temple (9-5, 1-2).

Nate Pierre-Louis, center, of Temple gets sandwiched between Caleb Mills, left, and Chris Harris of Houston during the 1st half at the Liacouras Center on Jan 7, 2020.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Nate Pierre-Louis, center, of Temple gets sandwiched between Caleb Mills, left, and Chris Harris of Houston during the 1st half at the Liacouras Center on Jan 7, 2020.

Keys to the Game

Houston grabbed 54 rebounds while Temple managed 32. On the offensive glass, Houston outrebounded Temple, 23-8 and turned it into 19 second-chance points. McKie told reporters that was simply the difference in the game. Temple was able to hold Houston to 43% shooting from the field and 26% from three-point range, but additional opportunities on possessions, as well as Temple defensive fouls on those offensive rebounding chances, turned the tide.

Temple guard Nate Pierre-Louis held Houston’s leading scorer, Quentin Grimes, to just four points, continuing his impressive defensive stands. But Mills, a freshman guard, stepped up in Grimes absence to make 9-of-16 shots from the field. McKie said Temple knew of Mills’ ability to carry the Cougars but was unable to stop him.

Quotable

“They all buy into the physicality of rebounding. And it’s not just their bigs, it’s their guards. … We’ve got to do more of that. We talk to our guys about doing that. That’s just energy, heart, hustle and want-to.” — McKie on Houston’s team rebounding.

“All five of their guys are a threat to do something. They can score and offensive rebound, so you have to pay attention to all of them. And they all crash the glass extremely hard, so that’s always tough.” –– Rose on what makes Houston hard to defend.

Takeaways

Despite making team rebounding an essential push for his team, McKie found himself saying after the loss that Temple needed to “take a page out of their book” and find a way to dominate the boards as well as Houston. He added that while the second-half comeback was important to build upon, the “damage was done” in the first half because of Houston’s ability to manufacture extra offensive opportunities. It was a gut check for McKie’s team against a top-tier team from the American.