No. 12 Houston, Temple square off after COVID postponements

National Sports

Pummeled by injuries and COVID-19, the No. 12 Houston Cougars will call on their depth and experience Sunday in Philadelphia when they face Temple in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

The Cougars (11-2) rose one spot in the Top 25 after their Dec. 28 game with Cincinnati was postponed due to an outbreak within the program. Coaches and school administrators are working to find an available makeup date.

Houston last played on Dec. 22, an 80-47 home win over Texas State.

Josh Carlton, a grad transfer from UConn, scored a season-high 20 points in that victory while Kyler Edwards added 14, and Marcus Sasser 13. Jamal Shead racked up 12 points and 10 assists for Houston for his first double-double of the season.

The Cougars made 13 of 28 on 3-pointers against Texas State, winning for the seventh time in their past eight games.

“At UConn, it was about building the culture and building up the program,” Carlton said after the win. “Here at Houston, the standard is set by the guys who were before me. I’m just following that standard and following the culture that has been established by the players here before.”

But the feel-good win was tempered by the loss of Sasser to a season-ending foot injury and Edwards going down late in the game to a Grade 2 ankle sprain. Edwards is unlikely to play against Temple, and Tramon Mack previously sustained a season-ending shoulder injury, which means the Cougars will be without their three top guards.

“There’s nobody else to look at … ‘we’re out. The bag is empty,'” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, before adding, “We’ve got some candidates.

“A lot of these kids were better being the second and third guy, or third or fourth guy, or maybe fifth guy…. Everybody just has to change chairs.”

Temple also will the taking the court after an extended layoff. The Owls were supposed to play Villanova on Wednesday, but that game was postponed due to COVID issues within the Temple program.

The Owls (7-5) look to continue their rebound from a ragged start and get an early leg up in AAC play.

Temple beat Delaware State 85-48 on Dec. 22 at home in its most recent outing, snapping a two-game losing streak. The Owls have won six of their past eight contests and are 5-2 at home this season.

Freshman Zach Hicks set a school record for the Owls with 10 3-pointers as part of his game-high 35 points.

“It’s what he does. It comes as no surprise. I’ve seen it,” Temple coach Aaron McKie said of Hicks’ performance. “I told him in the locker room, not only is it hard to score 35 points in a college game, but to do it as a freshman, that’s impressive. I have no doubt in my mind he’s going to be a special college player.”

Freshman Damian Dunn added 18 points for Temple.

–Field Level Media

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