- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston ended its five-game losing streak Sunday, but the win was not as easy as the Cougars would have wanted.

TaShawn Thomas had 25 points and nine rebounds to lead Houston to an 88-74 win over Temple Sunday.

Thomas finished 10 of 12 shooting and had six blocks as the Cougars (12-12, 4-7 American) shot 54 percent for the game, including 11 of 24 from behind the arc.

Jherrod Stiggers added 20 points off the bench, Danuel House chipped in 16 and Brandon Morris had 15. Both Stiggers and Morris hit five 3-pointers.

Houston coach James Dickey said the win was big, and his players agreed.

“Very important,” Thomas said. “We dropped too many. We kind of forgot what it felt like to win. Getting this win brings back a little confidence back to us. But we’ve got to stay humble and come back ready to play next game.”

Houston held a 40-26 advantage in the paint led by Thomas.

“We did a good job getting the ball inside,” Dickey said. “Our goal isn’t just to get the ball to TaShawn (Thomas). Our goal is inside out. Whether it’s a paint touch on the pass, or penetrate and pitch, we’re a better basketball team when we get the ball to the heart of the defense, they collapse, and now we can kick it out. Obviously you have to score around the paint.”

Dalton Pepper led Temple (6-16, 1-9) with 17 points, Quenton Decosey and Anthony Lee added 14 apiece, Will Cummings had 12 points and Devontae Watson had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy said his team is still not consistent enough on the defensive side.

“We got it back to seven for that one stretch, and then made a couple of miscues,” Dunphy said. “We lost Stiggers a time or two, I think he went 5 of 9 on 3’s, and Thomas is a load in there. They’re a good basketball team. I like some things we’re doing, and I don’t like some things that we’re doing, we’re just not good enough defensively.”

Temple, which lost its third straight and 11th in 12 games, shot 50 percent in the second half in cutting Houston’s lead from 21 down to five with 8:27 remaining, but the Cougars responded with a 12-4 spurt to open the lead back to 15 at 82-67 on a Thomas layup with 2:41 left.

Trailing 62-42 with 12:20 remaining, the Owls cut the lead to 64-59 as Lee capped the 17-2 run with a jumper with 8:27 left. Pepper had seven in the run for Temple.

“You can’t be that far behind,” Dunphy said. “We need to take care of the ball a little better; we had eight turnovers for the game with a couple of those late. But we did some decent things that way, we need to be better with the basketball in our hands, and we need to be better defensively.”

Houston responded with its run led by Stiggers and Thomas, who each had six points in the surge.

“We looked up, saw the scoreboard and got satisfied, slacked off then got back to business,” Stiggers said of Temple cutting the lead down to five.

Houston used a 22-2 run over a seven-minute stretch of the first half to turn a four-point deficit into a 16-point lead. Stiggers had nine points to lead the run for the Cougars, capping it off with a 3-pointer with 9:33 remaining in the first half. Thomas also had six points in the spurt.

The Cougars lead grew to as large as 21 in the first half at 40-19 on a Morris 3-pointer with 3:27 left in the first half, but the Owls ended the half on a 10-0 run capped by consecutive layups by Watson to cut Houston’s lead to 40-29 at the half.

Houston shot nearly 52 percent in the first half, including hitting 5 of 11 from behind the arc.

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