After both teams struggled in their opener, both Houston and Rice hosted SWAC opponents on Sunday, and had an easier go of it. The SWAC is consistently rated as one of the worst conferences in the country in RPI, so the quality of opponent wasn't terrific, but at least the big margins of victory were there.
Houston defeats Alcorn State, 88-68
For the Cougars, it didn't look like things would go quite so smoothly, as the Braves actually played Houston to a first half tie, 35-35. But a 19-6 run in the middle of the second half gave the Cougars a 67-52 lead, and the home team just played keep-away from there on in.
Some things didn't change from game one to game two. The starting line-up was the same. Adam Brown led Houston in scoring again, this time with 23 points. Maurice McNeil posted another double-double, with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The free throw shooting was still uninspiring, at under 60% (22-of-37).
However, the one area that was greatly improved was ball control. Houston actually cut its turnover total in half from game one, from 26 to 13. Zamal Nixon contributed 8 points, 10 assists, and five steals, against just one turnover.
On the negative side, Houston's rebounding edge was much less pronounced than it was against Nicholls State in the opener.
But this early on in the season, with a team so inexperienced, under a first year coach, all you can ask for is improvement. And we definitely saw that on Sunday.
Rice defeats Grambling State, 86-57
The Owls took an early lead, but saw it pared down to just two points late in the first half by some hot shooting from behind the arc, as the Tigers connected on six of their 13 first half three-point attempts. The Rice lead at the half was 34-27. After intermission, Rice tightened up their perimeter defense, and the offense exploded, with the home team hitting five of its first six field goals, and extending the lead to 14 points.
7-foot-2 Egyptian freshman Omar Oraby's bucket with 12 seconds to go pushed the lead to a game-high 29 points, and provided the final deficit. Tamir Jackson and Connor Frizzelle led the Owls with 17 points apiece, and sophomore big Arsalan Kazemi provided his second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.
Both Texas Southern and Houston Baptist lost their season openers on the road on Sunday. The Tigers fell to Drake by a score of 60-46, while the Huskies couldn't mount a comeback despite 45 second-half points, and lost to Oklahoma State, 86-73.
Both the Cougars and Owls hit the road next, with the Cougars heading east to face Louisiana Tech (1-1) of the WAC on Wednesday, and the Owls traveling west to take on Santa Clara (1-0) of the WCC on Thursday.