GAME NOTES: The Drake Bulldogs and Rice Owls both hope to salvage their trip to the DirectTV Classic when they meet in a consolation ladder matchup at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena.
The winner of this contest will advance to play either Xavier or Drexel. Both losers will also be matched up.
The Owls were completely shut down by Georgia Tech in their first-round game as they suffered a 54-36 setback to the Yellow Jackets. The 33 points scored by Rice were the lowest since Feb. 14, 2000. The team managed to make only 11- of-48 field goal attempts, while Georgia Tech went 21-of-54. The Owls are now 1-3 with their only win coming over Division II foe St. Edwards. They were also defeated by Division II opponent (St. Thomas-TX) in their season opener, and suffered a 77-63 loss to Temple in Philadelphia.
The Bulldogs dropped to 1-2 after relinquishing a nine-point lead late in the second half before losing, 70-67, to California. Drake initially trailed on the scoreboard and overcame a 23-13 deficit, but it could not stop the Golden Bears' guard combo of Justin Cobbs (21 points) and Allen Crabbe (15 points). Coach Mark Phelps was not happy his squad was beat on the glass 40-26 or that it converted only 15-of-26 attempts at the charity stripe. The loss was the second in a row for Drake as it fell to the Detroit Titans on Nov. 17 in its previous outing.
This bout marks the sixth meeting between these two schools on the basketball court. Drake owns a slim 3-2 edge in the series, but the Owls won just last spring when they squared off in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
In Rice's low-scoring loss on Thursday, Austin Ramljak came off the bench to make 6-of-12 three-point attempts for a career-high 18 points. While Ramljak accounted for half of the team's scoring output, Tamir Jackson scored nine points, Keith Washington netted six points, and Seth Gearhart tallied two. Julian DeBose, Max Guercy, Ross Wilson and Dan Peera combined to attempt 13 field goals, but not one of them dropped. The poor offensive production is nothing new, as St. Thomas-TX held the Owls to 59 points and Temple limited them to 63 prior to the tourney.
Aside from its poor free throw shooting, Drake played very well at the offensive end of the floor versus the Golden Bears. It shot 45.3 percent from the floor and had 16 assists against only 10 turnovers. The Bulldogs also knocked down 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc over the final 20 minutes. The scoring came through a balanced attack as Ben Simons, Seth VanDeest, Richard Carter and Gary Ricks all contributed 13 points. Jordan Clarke also got into the mix with 11 points and a team-high 10 boards. Simons entered the game as the team's leading scorer with 16.3 ppg.
Rice will endure a very long season if none of its players emerge as a legitimate scoring threat. The Bulldogs have played two teams that are very capable of reaching this year's NCAA Tournament down to the wire. Drake will have no problem keeping the offensively-challenged Owls at bay.