Harvard (12-1) at Rice (5-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 4, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Tudor Fieldhouse (5,750) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CBS Sports Network. Home Record: Harvard 5-0, Rice 3-2. Away Record: Harvard 3-1, Rice 2-3. Neutral Record: Harvard 4-0, Rice 0-2. Conference Record: Harvard 0-0, Rice 0-0. Series Record: Harvard leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Harvard Crimson will look to capture their ninth win in a row as it visits Tudor Fieldhouse for a non-conference tilt against the Rice Owls.
The Crimson enter with a 12-1 record after their 73-58 victory over Boston College on New Year's Day. Harvard's only loss this season came on Nov. 24 at Colorado and it has won three true road tests at Northeastern, Boston and Fordham since the setback. Another win would give the program its best record and longest winning streak under seventh-year head coach Tommy Amaker. The Crimson are leading all Ivy League teams in scoring offense at 76.3 ppg and are holding their opposition to a mere 62.2 ppg to tie for first in the conference in scoring defense.
Rice fell to the 5-7 mark when it was defeated, 60-44, at Texas on Dec. 30. The setback was the second straight for the Owls, who lost to Princeton of the Ivy League at home by 14 points in late November. Coach Ben Braun's squad won just four non-conference games and five games in total in the 2012-13 season. It has clearly made a big step in the right direction as it is averaging only 1.7 points less per game than its foes.
This will be just the fourth meeting between Harvard and Rice on the hardwood. The Crimson own a 2-1 all-time series lead after their 92-62 rout of the Owls last season.
Wesley Saunders had a stellar outing against Boston College with 21 points, six rebounds and four steals to carry Harvard to the victory. Kyle Casey tallied 11 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Crimson, while Jonah Travis also scored 11. Although Saunders is the clear leader due to his team- high 15.5 ppg, the Crimson's success this season has come due to a collective effort. The team's bench outscored BC's reserves, 24-5, in its last outing. Harvard also shot an impressive 23-of-28 from the free-throw line. Siyani Chambers is contributing 11.8 ppg to go along with 5.1 assists and 1.5 steals per outing. Casey is also adding 11.8 ppg.
Sean Obi was the lone bright spot for Rice in its 22-point loss to the Longhorns. The 6-foot-9 freshman forward registered a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds in 23 minutes of action, but none of his teammates managed to join him in double figures in either category. The Owls shot just 29.1 percent from the field including a 6-of-29 clip from behind the 3-point line in the game. They played much better after the intermission and will try to carry the momentum of the strong finish into this even tougher matchup. Obi is fourth among Conference USA players in rebounding with 9.4 per game. His scoring average of 11.9 ppg is second on the team to Austin Ramljak's 12.8 ppg. Ramljak and Max Guercy combined to go 2-of-14 from beyond the arc in the recent loss in Austin.
The Owls' shooting from 3-point range will need to improve if they are going to continue to hoist up more than 50 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Rice's tendency to settle for outside shots will put a lot of pressure on it right away, as too many consecutive misses in the first half could enable Harvard to put the game out of reach before the intermission.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Harvard 81, Rice 60
01/04 10:39:28 ET