Drake (18-15) at Rice (18-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 17, 8:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tudor Fieldhouse (5,208) -- Houston, Texas. Television: None. CIT Record: Drake 1-1, Rice 1-0. Series Record: Drake leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: Postseason play continues for both the Drake Bulldogs and the Rice Owls when the teams square off in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament tonight in Houston.
In beating North Dakota 70-64 in its first-round matchup, Drake won its first postseason tournament game in 37 years. The Bulldogs are now 18-15 overall after finishing the Missouri Valley Conference regular season in third place with a 9-9 record, their second-best MVC standing in the last 26 years.
Despite having lost three of its previous four games, Rice was able to triumph over Louisiana in the first round 68-63. It was its first postseason tournament game since 2005 and the first win since it beat Wisconsin 77-73 in the 1993 NIT. The victory moves the Owls to 18-15 overall, and they have played very well in Houston of late, having won four of their last five games at Tutor Fieldhouse.
Drake leads the all-time series over Rice, 3-1, though the teams have not met since 1967.
Drake did not have a great game from the floor in the first round, shooting only 38.2 percent, and North Dakota actually had a better shooting night at 43.1 percent. However, it was able to pull out the victory by connecting on 21- of-27 from the free-throw line and by winning the turnover battle, 16-8. As consistent with the rest of the season, the Bulldogs were paced by their two start scorers, as Ben Simons tallied 24 points and Rayvonte Rice netted 19. Rice (16.6 ppg) and Simons (16.3 ppg) both finished in the top-five in the MVC in scoring, with Rice also leading the league in steals (2.0 spg) while Simons drained the most three-pointers (70). The dynamic duo does most of the heavy lifting for a Drake squad that scores a modest 66.9 ppg, though Kurt Alexander provides a spark off the bench with 8.3 ppg. While its defense has been nothing spectacular (66.7 ppg), it allows its opponents to shoot a woeful 30.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Rice got out to a slim lead at the half over the Ragin' Cajuns in the first round and was able to fight them off down the stretch for the win. The Owls connected on 43.6 percent of its shots, and they were plagued by an unacceptable amount of turnovers (19), but they went 15-of-20 from the foul line and had four players score in double figures, lead by Connor Frizzelle with 18. Rice possessed one of Conference USA's best offenses, scoring 69.5 ppg while hitting on a solid 44.6 percent of its field goals, and it is no stranger to the balanced effort, as it has eight players who score at least five points per game. The Owls are anchored by on of the best forwards in the conference, Arsalan Kazemi, who averages a double-double with 12.2 ppg and 10.4 ppg, while also adding 2.1 spg, 1.1 bpg, and shooting an outstanding percentage from the field (.586). Tamir Jackson is their most consistent threat from the outside, scoring 10.5 ppg, while Frizzle (9.5 ppg) and Dylan Ennis (8.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) are also solid contributors.
While Rice and Simons will certainly be able to make this an interesting game from the opening tip, Drake has struggled mightily on the road this year, with its only away win in the last two months coming against Bradley (7-25). Kazemi should be able to make his presence felt in the paint early as the Owls advance to the quarterfinals.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 74, Drake 67
03/17 10:33:08 ET