HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – Rice Head Coach Ben Braun and the Owls defeated the Cougars in their first meeting of the season Wednesday night at Hofheinz Pavilion, 79-71. That score was also the exact same from the January 11th overtime contest of 2010-11. Hence, the Owls have won 3 of their last 4 with two of those occurring in Tudor Fieldhouse. They are now 9-4 at home.
Braun wants his guys to remain hungry especially since they beat SMU 68-52 at Moody Coliseum back on January 11.
“We have to guard against any type of over-confidence or feeling that this is a game where we just have to show up. We have to play really well.”
MUST GET OFF TO A FAST START
There were no fast starts against the Cougars on Wednesday night as the Owls started the game a combined 0-for-14 until junior guard Tamir Jackson nailed a 3-pointer at the 12:02 mark of the first half. But by halftime, the Owls were able to take a 35-34 lead into the visitor’s locker-room which set the tempo for the second half.
However, Braun doesn’t want to see the same type start against SMU. He’d rather see the team mirror the same type of effort Saturday night at home as they did in Dallas at Moody Coliseum.
“Well, we had such a good start against SMU on the road and we had such a poor start against Houston. So, I’m hoping we can even things out a little bit and we can be steady. You know you’d like to get off to great starts every game.”
The Owls got out to a 19-7 lead during the first 11 minutes of the game at SMU and led 29-23 at the half. It was a combined 4-block, 4-steal defensive effort that propelled the Owls to that 19-7 start. Braun knows that scoring offense is critical, but playing good defense leads to transition buckets and good shots.
“Again, you don’t always control the ball going to the basket, but you should be able to control your defensive effort and intensity. So, I want to make sure we’re out there guarding SMU, making it tough for them.”
NO CHANGE WITH DEFENSE OR LINEUP
The Owls used the zone defense to stifle the Cougars late in the second half on Wednesday night and could go to that same defense against SMU. But, Braun says their bread and butter is, has been, and will be, their man-to-man defense.
“We consider ourselves a man-to-man team. But, even if we choose to play zone, we have man-to-man principles in our zone which makes our man-to-man effective, and it gives us the ability to keep some of our bigger players at home around the basket.”
Braun liked the result from the lineup that he used against Houston and will more than likely go with that same 4-guard, big man lineup of senior Connor Frizzelle, junior forward Arsalan Kazemi, freshman Dylan Ennis, freshman Jarelle Reischel, and Tamir Jackson.
“We think we’re going to go with who we started last game,” says Braun. “It was a pretty good formula. It didn’t help us get off to a great offensive start. But, that group ended up doing some pretty good things for us.”
Junior guard Tamir Jackson, who only scored 2 points in 13 minutes against SMU, but 13 against Houston in 36 minutes, has found his way back after really putting in the work, says Braun.
“I think what’s happened in recent games is a reflection of how he has practiced because he’s practiced hard, practiced well, and his perseverance has allowed that to carry over into games.”
Freshman guard Ahmad Ibrahim comes off the one-game suspension instituted by Braun after the unruly incident at ECU and could see playing time Saturday night.
“That was a one-game sentence,” says Braun. “I consider the matter to be over and we’re going to look back at this someday and say that was just a bump in the road. But, it was something that had to be done and I hope it was a valuable lesson for him and for our team as well.”
SMU VS RICE
Senior 6’8” forward Robert Nyakundi and 6’3” junior guard London Giles lead Matt Doherty’s 11-13 Mustangs in scoring with 15.5 and 10.7 points per game respectively. Nyakundi is also their leading rebounder and averages 5.1 per game. The Mustangs are 2-7 in C-USA.
Rice is 14-11, 5-5 in C-USA and led by 6’7” forward Arsalan Kazemi with double-digit averages in scoring and rebounding with 12.8 and 10.6 respectively. He’s ranked as the 8th best rebounder in the nation and tied for first in conference with Cameron Moore of UAB. Jackson follows with an 11.2 points per game average.
The Mustangs average 61.6 ppg and are ranked 11th in the conference while the Owls average 71.4 ppg and are fourth-best in C-USA. Rice is the third-best offensive rebounding team in C-USA averaging 37.1 per game while SMU averages 28.5 boards per contest and rank last.
The tipoff gets underway Saturday night at 7:00 in Tudor Fieldhouse.