Houston, We Have a Problem

Written By: Ryan Feuerstein

Ever wonder what it’s like to experience a Temple game on the road? This past Thursday, I had the chance to do just that. I woke up early to travel to Houston, Texas, where later that night the Owls would face the University of Houston’s Cougars, who were ranked 13th in the nation with a record of 21-1. The Cougars, as many here at Temple know, have only lost one game this season, right here in Philadelphia at the Liacouras Center. After all, who could forget the image of UH coach Kelvin Sampson on his knees taking off his tie and begging for attention at the end of the game?

Despite Temple not being able to come out with what would have been a tough road win in Houston (they have currently won 30 consecutive games at home dating back quite awhile, it was still quite an experience going to a true road game, one with major American Athletic Conference and NCAA Tournament implications.

The Fertitta Center on the campus of the University of Houston is brand new. It opened this season to a lot of fanfare in the Oil City, despite it just being a rather expensive renovation of their already-existing arena, then known as Hofheinz Pavilion. It was a rather similar upgrade to that of what Villanova did with the Pavilion arena on their campus, simply spending a lot of money on renovations and having their teams play elsewhere for a year. And while the Cougars are 18-0 at home this season, it really didn’t seem like it had too much of a home court advantage. The place only holds around 7,000 seats, of which I’d guess around 6,100 had people in them, despite the game being announced as a sellout.

I was one of the first people into the arena, as I wanted to check everything out and of course watch warmups. My initial reaction was that the arena really wasn’t anything special. It was rather small, which led to good sight lines throughout. But, being a small arena meant that there wasn’t a whole lot going on, or, most importantly, places to eat. I was hungry. I had essentially came straight from the plane, with only a quick stop at the hotel to drop of my bags. So I settled on some less-than-stellar Mac and Cheese. Walking around, the arena felt like nothing special. Nothing more than some minor-league atmosphere with mediocre concessions.

As for the game itself, the “Coogs” got off to a fast start, scoring the first seven points of the game. As always, the Owls fought back and quickly made it a back-and-forth contest filled with lead changes, people calling at the referees’ heads for bad calls…that sort of thing. There were several “oh not this again” or “WHAT FOUL?” cries from the stands. However, Temple trailed for most of the game, but they did have several sporadic leads that were quickly washed away by the quick operating Houston offense. The game was never out of reach, as the lead was never more than 10 in either team’s favor, but Temple just couldn’t pull the this one out and lost 73-66.

Quinton Rose led the team in scoring, putting up a 26 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists performance.

Of course Houston fans had not forgotten the one blemish on their team’s record, and they made sure to let the Owls hear it, not that anyone wearing a Temple T was truly paying attention. It made for some playful banter between fans, and there were several other people in Temple shirts. Amongst the things I heard, “the refs won’t help you this time” and other related lines were the most common.

Seeing a road game in college basketball also gives fans an opportunity to see their school represent in their colored jerseys, as the home team customarily wears white (which is the reverse of college football where the home team wears the colored jersey). Temple was in their black alternates, while Houston was in a grey jersey that provided a color-on-color of sorts.

Another surprise was a change in the Temple lineup, as Sophomore Justyn Hamilton made his first start of the season over De’Vondre Perry. The rest of the starting lineup was as expected, with Quinton Rose, Shizz Alston, Jr., Nate Pierre-Louis, and Ernest Aflakpui, who’s name the PA announcer butchered several times rather annoyingly. Perry played off the bench, as did the usual substitution crew of Alani Moore II, JP Moorman II, and Damion Moore.

The Owls lost their second game in a row for the first time all season, and it was their third loss overall in American Athletic Conference play. Temple and Houston do not currently have another game against each other on the calendar, barring a matchup in the AAC Tournament this March. Temple got back on track in the second game of their two-game road trip Saturday in New Orleans, defeating the Tulane Green Wave 75-67. I was not there.

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