Owls Travel To College Station To Face Aggies

By NATE GRIFFIN, SportsRadio 610
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(credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Like Saturday night, Monday night against Temple didn’t turn out the way Rice Owls Head Coach Ben Braun had expected. The Temple Owls turned out to be the better team of birds as sent the Rice Owls to their fourth loss of the season winning, 77-70. They are now 7-4 on the season as they prepare to face the Aggies at Reed Arena on the campus of Texas A&M Thursday night. 

The Temple Owls were a little better at the free throw line, shot better from field, and shot better from the three-point line. The Temple Owls were 8-of-19 from 3-land for 42.1%, while the Rice Owls were 3-of-18 for 16.7%. In addition, the Rice Owls were 17-of-26 from the free throw line while Temple was 13-of-19. The Rice Owls were 25-of-60 from the field while Temple was 28-of-61. 

“Tough game for us – I thought our team really made some great surges in that game,” says Braun. “Defensively, we have to get out and cover the 3-point shooter, something we have to do a better job of and then obviously, putting teams at the foul line – we have to do a better job there. And of course, when we get to the foul line, we’ve been getting there recently, and then we got to hit a better percentage.” 

WOULD BE A GREAT WEAPON  

Rice Head Coach Ben Braun does not want his team to depend on the 3-point shot to win ballgames. However, he says he would like to see his team shoot more efficiently than they have in the last two games, 3-for-18 against Temple and 4-for-17 against Lamar.  

“With our post guys commanding some presence down low, our perimeter guys are going to have to knock down some shots. I know Lucas Kuipers came down and knocked down some 3’s, which was great to see. Connor Frizzelle, obviously, has knocked down some three’s and that’s been good. Tamir, (Jackson), has been able to knock down some. But, it’s important for the team to step up and give us a lift in that department because that gives us better floor spacing, gives out post guys more room to operate.” 

If Kuipers can have the same shooting night he experienced against Temple, the Owls with the combination of Kazemi, Jackson, Frizzelle and Kuipers could be a difficult matchup for opposing teams. Kuipers scored a season high 16 points on Monday night and will need to do something similar on Thursday. 

“Lucas came back and I thought, had a great second half,” says Braun. “His intensity was good, not just on the offensive end, but he was really tough on the defensive end. He forced a couple of turnovers, got us back in the game. Defensively, (he had) 7 rebounds, 3 forced turnovers against Temple; thought he did a really good job defensively.” 

MUST HAVE AGAINST A&M 

The Owls must have rebounding. As Braun has told his team – “we are 7-0 when we win the battle of the boards.” The Lamar Cardinals won the battle of the boards Saturday night and the Owls lost 87-81. The Temple Owls won the battle of the boards, 40-36 on Monday night after getting outrebounded 2-to-1 by the Texas Longhorns on last Saturday – and the Temple Owls won. 

But, against #22 Texas A&M, a more athletic and physical team, Ben Braun knows his team is going to need to step up much better than they have in the last two games because of their athletes. The Aggies are 8-2 and talented. The prediction is they will go far in the Big XII. Thursday night, Braun knows the Aggies will be a strong test for his Owls. 

“They’re a good basketball team. I know a lot of their personnel on their team, recruited a couple of guys. So, I know how well they can play. Billy Kennedy, (1st year head coach), is a former assistant coach of mine back at California. So, I’m very familiar with their team, their personnel, their coaches, (and) they’ve got a good basketball team.” 

“Billy came in and had some really good players left over from the Mark Turgeon era and those guys are picked to be one of the top teams in the Big XII. So, it’s a great challenge for our team.” 

AGGIES WITH STRONG STARTING FIVE 

The Aggies are a low-scoring team that averages roughly 64.4 ppg average which is somewhat different in that 4-of-5 starters average double figure scoring. 

Dash Harris doesn’t score in bunches. But, the 6’1” senior guard from Los Angeles runs the offense and distributes the ball with precision. He averages 4.5 assists per game and tied a career high with 8 assists against #13 Florida on 12/17 in an 84-74 loss. Senior 6’8” forward David Loubreau averages 12 ppg while junior 6’7” forward Khris Middleton averages 14 ppg. 

Junior guard Elston Turner, son of Phoenix Suns Assistant Coach, Elston Turner, averages 12.9 ppg, and scored 20 points versus Florida. Finally, there’s 6’9” junior forward Ray Turner from Houston who averages 11.9 ppg and 6 rpg. 

But while Braun is concerned with the entire Aggies team, he talked about two of the main concerns. 

“Dash Harris, the player I’m very familiar with, I think he does a good job running the show for his team. He’s a good defender and gets the ball where it needs to go. He’s very agile in terms of getting into the paint, getting pull-up shots, finding his open guys.” 

“And what can you say about Khris Middleton, one of the top players in the country. He can score from a variety of spots on the floor. He can score inside, off the dribble, off the catch and off the post. So, he really gives their team a real lift and makes it tough for team matchup wise.”

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