HOUSTON - The stories about everything from Pecos Bill to LBJ to Lee Harvey Oswald were wonderful, but the primary reason the Temple Owls came to Texas was to win basketball games. They did that last night with a 77-70 decision over Rice at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Rice (7-4) went on a 5-0 run to start the second half and take a 37-36 lead and Temple, which coasted early on, suddenly found itself in an alley fight. But after two lead changes, Temple started pulling away again. Juan Fernandez drove the lane, zipped a sharp pass to Anthony Lee down low, and Lee's two-handed dunk gave Temple a 53-47 lead with 13 minutes, 31 seconds remaining.
When Khalif Wyatt hit a short runner with 10:51 left, Temple had its first double-digit lead of the second half, 57-47.
Temple, which suffered at the free-throw line in a 12-point loss to Texas on Saturday, was 7-for-11 against Rice. Fernandez led all scorers with 23 points.
"Any win is a great win, especially a win on the road," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "But we have to buckle down and be a better basketball team."
Temple was able to outrebound Rice, 40-36. Anthony Lee had seven rebounds and Rahir Hollis-Jefferson had 10 to lead in that category.
Rice made its final charge with 1:39 remaining and cut the lead to six with a pair of free throws by Lucas Kuipers.
Temple spread the floor and chewed up just about all of the shot clock before Fernandez threw up a three-pointer from far beyond the arc just before the clock expired. His 30-footer hit nothing but net and gave Temple a commanding, 71-63 lead with 54 second remaining. It was Fernandez' fifth three on seven attempts.
He had made just 1 of 4 treys against Texas, but still got the green light from Dunphy.
"Juan has made those shots before, so we're not going to question him whenever he steps up to the line to shoot us a three-pointer," said Dunphy.
Fernandez said he enjoyed playing in Texas and appreciates his coach's confidence when it comes to launching a three-pointer.
"I really like this road trip," Fernandez said. "Texas reminds me a lot of Argentina, and I certainly enjoyed that. Luckily [the three-pointers] went in tonight. They haven't been going in lately, but tonight, luckily, they did."
Rice, which shot 11-for-20 from the free-throw line, cut the lead to 73-68 with 42 seconds remaining. Rice immediately went into fullcourt pressure and fouled Ramone Moore. Moore, who finished with 15 points, was able to hit both ends of the one-and-one to give his team a 75-68 edge with 36 second remaining.
Rice's Tamir Jackson would hit two free throws with 30 second remaining to cut the Temple lead to 75-70, and once again Rice went into fullcourt pressure. Once again it was Moore who was fouled, and he hit one of two free throws to give his team a 76-70 lead with 21 second s left. Another miss forced Rice to foul Hollis-Jefferson, who hit one of two to close out the scoring.