Ernest Aflakpui held his ground and in turn Temple knocked Houston from the unbeaten ranks. With Temple leading by two points, Aflakpui took a charge on a drive from Houston’s leading scorer Corey Davis Jr. with 0.6 seconds left to preserve Temple’s 73-69 win over the No. 17 Cougars in an American Athletic Conference game at the Liacouras Center on Wednesday night.
Houston was trailing by 71-69, but had the ball with 7.3 seconds left. Davis drove the lane and the 6-foot-10 Aflakpui, known for drawing charging fouls, made arguably his biggest play of the season.
Houston fouled Nate Pierre-Louis, who made two free throws to round out the scoring.
Temple is now 12-3 and 2-1 in the AAC while Houston is now 15-1, 2-1.
It is the 12th consecutive year that Temple has beaten a top-25 team.
“We ended up getting beat to the basket and Nate [Pierre-Louis] did a great job chasing him so he couldn’t shoot the three, and I saw him coming and got up and took the charge,” said Aflakpui, who ended with six points and seven rebounds.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson saw that pivotal play the other way.
“I thought it was a block but that would have been the first time I was right all night,” Sampson said.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy said Aflakpui’s game-saving play wasn’t a surprise.
“He is the best charger-taker of a big man I have ever seen,” Dunphy said.
Temple, which entered the game shooting 71.3 percent from the foul line, hit 25 for 28 (88.9 percent) from the foul line, compared to 11 for 17 (64.7 percent) for the Cougars.
Quinton Rose led Temple with 22 points, while Pierre-Louis had 18 and Shizz Alston contributed 12.
“I have been struggling and today, especially from the foul line, to see them go it, it was good,” Rose said.
Rose shot 6-for-18 from the field, but made 9 of 10 free throws.
Houston’s 6-8 senior Breaon Brady, who entered the game averaging 6.6 points, scored a team-high 19.
Temple, which led by 62-54 with 8 minutes, 36 seconds after an Alston jumper, saw Houston cut the lead to 67-66 on a layup by Brady with 1:55 left. The Owls then extended the lead to 71-66 on two free throws by Pierre-Louis and a dunk by Rose.
Houston made it 71-69 on Davis’s three-pointer with 37 second remaining.
Temple then had a shot clock violation, giving the Cougars the ball with 7.3 seconds left and setting the stage for Aflakpui’s defensive play.
Temple led by 39-32 at halftime despite leading scorer Alston scoring just six points on 1 for 6 shooting. Rose had a breakout half with 14 points. It was the 10th straight game that Rose has scored in double figures.