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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) — Rice coach Ben Braun has been through more than his share of highly competitive basketball games so he can sense the perfect moment to switch things up.
That moment came against Houston during a 30-second time on Wednesday night with Braun’s team holding a 65-64 lead over the rivals Cougars. After playing man-to-man all night, Braun instructed his team to shift to a 2-3 zone.
It was as if he knew the Cougars wouldn’t attack, instead settling for 3-pointers. The move proved genius as the Owls outscored UH 14-7 the rest of the way to finish with a 79-71 win at Hofeinz Pavillion.
“I didn’t think they were ready for the zone so it was a good time,” Braun said of the move. “I thought we could at least steal a possession there but as it turned out we got that possession and a couple more.”
And just like a horrendous start that saw Rice miss its first 14 shots and UH take a 13-0 lead during the first eight minutes was all but forgotten.
The Owls aren’t a great team, but they are solid collection of players when they stick to their roots of smart and intelligent play they can actually be a dangerous squad. They used seven big 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes to erase the 13-point deficit and take a 35-34 lead into halftime.
Tamir Jackson, Jarrelle Reischell, Connor Frizzelle, Lucas Kuipers, David Chadwick and Dylan Ennis all hit big 3-pointer in the opening 20 minutes to get the Owls back in it.
During the second half, Rice switched up some and began to pound it inside with the help of 7-foot-2 post Omar Oraby while completely befuddling the Cougars with the zone down the stretch. The Cougars missed countless open looks down the stretch but still finished the night 44 percent, but they were just 2 for 11 from 3-point range in the pivotal second half.
“The intensity was picking up and for them come in that zone was tough and we got kind of stagnant because we hadn’t saw it the whole game,” said UH guard Jonathon Simmons, who turned in a double-double for the Cougs with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort. “To see it the last four minutes of the game kind of shocked us a little bit.”
The Owls cold tell.
“They just stood around and shot 3s,” said Tamir Jackson. “They didn’t try to attack the zone.”
While that very moment that Braun decided to go to zone seemed genius, it wasn’t actually the moment he had planned to turn loose the zone. He would have did it a little earlier but with his team also missing some shots he couldn’t get a dead ball to switch up the defense.
“I thought it was a really solid move,” Braun said. “It’s something we’ve been working on. We instituted it before with some success. The zone is nothing more than a man on the ball and four guys in help position. So we worked at that. I think our man principles are solid enough to play it.
“It’s something that is very effective for us and it’s something we have in our repertoire and I’m glad to see our guys go into it.”