East Carolina (12-8) at Rice (5-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Tudor Fieldhouse (5,750) -- Houston, Texas. Television:. Home Record: ECU 10-3, Rice 5-6. Away Record: ECU 2-5, Rice 0-6. Neutral Record: ECU 0-0, Rice 0-3. Conference Record: ECU 3-4, Rice 1-5. Series Record: East Carolina leads, 7-5.
GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates will take their two-game losing streak to Tudor Fieldhouse for a Conference USA tilt against the Rice Owls.
Jeff Lebo's Pirates lost to Texas-El Paso by one point before suffering a 75-68 setback to Memphis in their two-game home stand. The back-to-back losses dropped ECU to a 12-8 overall record and a sixth place position in the league standings. The Pirates are one of the top offensive squads in the C-USA with a conference leading average of 77.2 points per contest, but they are second to last in the 12-team league with an allowed average of 70.9 ppg.
Rice finally notched its first win in C-USA action of the season on Wednesday as it picked up a surprising, 79-69, victory over the Houston Cougars in a cross-town rivalry game. Ben Braun's unit had lost nine of its previous 10 games before downing the Cougars and it will be looking to string together wins for the first time of the 2012-13 campaign in this one. The Owls are being outscored by an average of 8.4 points per game, which is 6.4 more than the second to last place Marshall Thundering Herd on the conference leaderboard.
East Carolina holds a narrow 7-5 advantage after topping Rice in last season's Conference USA Tournament. It was the fourth win in a row for the Pirates, dating back to 2010. Rice is 3-3 at home against ECU despite dropping its last two home games in the series.
In the loss to the Tigers, Ty Armstrong paced ECU with 18 points and nine boards. Miguel Paul contributed 15 points, six assists, and two steals while Maurice Kemp and Akeem Richmond scored 13 and 12 points, respectively. Kemp is stuck in a cold streak from the floor and has gone just 9-of-30 over his past two outings. Despite the recent slump, the 6-foot-8 senior forward has made himself an early candidate for C-USA Player of the Year by producing 17.1 ppg to go along with a 7.8 rpg. Robert Sampson is an even more impressive rebounder with 9.2 per contest, while Paul is second in the conference with 6.0 assists per game. Thanks to Paul's great court vision, ECU is dishing out 17.3 assists per contest as a team, which is the eighth best rate nationally.
The Owls went into the intermission of their crosstown matchup with Houston trailing, 33-25. However, In the second half, Rice was unstoppable after the break as it shot 65.2 percent from the floor while making good on 6-of-10 from beyond that arc to win the second stanza by 18 points. The Owls closed out the game on a 17-6 run to pull away. Max Guercy scored 21 points to push Rice to its big win over Houston earlier this week. The freshman guard has caught fire in recent weeks to reach double-figures in five-straight contests with an average of 14.6 ppg during that span. Senior guard Tamir Jackson, who is leading the Owls in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.1), tallied 18 points and six boards versus the Cougars.
Jackson has needed help all season long. Although Guercy's emergence still leaves the Owls away from challenging for the conference crown, they should be more competitive the rest of the way if the one-two punch continues to operate efficiently. The Pirates will not come in expecting to be handed the win after losing two in Greenville before arriving in the Lone Star State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 78, Rice 72
02/02 10:35:46 ET