Rice (13-11) at Houston (11-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 8th, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hofheinz Pavilion (8,479) -- Houston, Texas. Television: FSN. Home Record: Rice 9-5, Houston 10-4. Away Record: Rice 4-4, Houston 0-6. Neutral Record: Rice 0-2, Houston 1-1. Conference Record: Rice 4-5, Houston 3-6. Series Record: Houston leads, 57-16.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars return home to the friendly confines of Hofheinz Pavilion, hoping to get back on track as the Rice Owls come to town for a Conference USA tilt.
Houston fell short for the second game in a row in dropping a 75-54 decision at Tulane Saturday. The Green Wave shot out of the gates to gain a 19-5 lead and had a 12-point advantage at the break after draining 58.6 percent of their field goals. The Cougars never recovered, shooting 41.2 percent from the floor overall including 1-for-12 from three-point range. Freshman Joseph Young poured in a team-high 17 points off the bench for Houston, which had won two straight prior to its current skid. Fellow freshman TaShawn Thomas chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds as the Cougars fell to 3-6 in league action.
Rice had its modest two-game win streak halted Saturday with a convincing 82-68 loss at East Carolina. The Pirates proved too much in the second half where they built up a nine-point advantage and held on for the win thanks in part to a 39-29 rebounding advantage. ECU had 14 second-chance points compared with only two for the visiting Owls, who got a career-high 21 points from Dylan Ennis. Tamir Jackson added 17 points and six rebounds off the bench for Rice, which fell to 4-5 in conference play. Junior Arsalan Kazemi, the Owls' leading scorer, battled foul trouble and ended with just a single point to pair with eight rebounds.
Houston owns a 57-16 advantage in the all-time series and has captured eight of the last 10 meetings. However, those two losses have come in the last two encounters with the Owls, who swept last season's series ending in a 72-57 triumph at Hofheinz Pavilion March 5. The Cougars remain a tough 29-6 at home versus Rice with wins in five of the last six games there.
The Cougars are led by the duo of Jonathon Simmons and Alandise Harris, who average 14.8 and 13.7 points per game, respectively. However, the duo had 10 and eight points, respectively, versus Tulane Saturday. Thomas has paid huge dividends in his first collegiate go-round, posting 10.9 ppg and a team- leading 8.1 rebounds per contest. Young gives the Cougars a quartet of double- figure scoring options at 10.5 ppg and leads the team in three-pointers with 40 on 38.8 percent shooting. Overall, Houston puts up 73.6 ppg -- second to only Memphis in conference play -- and lands a crisp 46.7 percent of its field goals. The defense is another story, though, allowing a league-high 73.0 ppg on 43.6 percent shooting. The Cougars normally hold their own on the boards, checking in with a plus-1.4 margin at 36.5-35.0 rpg. Harris stands second to Thomas with 6.3 secured caroms per contest.
The Owls are at a serious disadvantage without the normal services of Kazemi, who averages 12.8 ppg and a conference-leading 11.0 rebounds. The junior's 62.0 shooting percentage is also tops in Conference USA. Jackson's 11.1 ppg serves as the only other double-digit scoring threat. Connor Frizzelle follows with a 9.5-point average while Ennis provides 8.1 ppg and 4.3 boards per contest. Overall, the Owls slot in as an above average scoring team at 71.1 ppg and the defense normally does well to hold its own at 66.6 ppg allowed on only 41.0 percent shooting. Rice shoots 44.5 percent from the field and holds down a respectable plus-2.6 margin on the glass (37.4-34.8).
Both teams have had their struggles of late but the Cougars are a solid 10-4 at home this season and still possess a potent offense. If Houston can continue to get solid contributions from the young freshmen, it may just surprise some teams coming down the stretch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 75, Rice 70
02/08 10:31:08 ET