Rice has reached the midway point of its Conference USA slate, and the Owls are set to take on the Tulane Green Wave tonight at Fogelman Arena in New Orleans.
Rice will be trying to rebound from a 75-68 loss to SMU over the weekend, which snapped a two-game win streak. The Owls are just 1-5 on opposing hardwoods this year, although they were a winner over UCF in their latest road game two weekends ago. The Owls and Green Wave are both just 2-5 in league play so far.
Tulane has lost five in a row entering this evening's contest. The most recent of those setbacks was a 67-54 loss at Southern Miss on Saturday. While the Green Wave have obviously had their struggles of late, they have managed to win eight of their 10 home games on the season.
Tulane beat Rice, 85-81, in the C-USA opener on Jan. 5 in a game that featured 18 ties and as many lead changes. The Green Wave hold a 24-21 series edge.
Rice put up a fight on Saturday, but ultimately the defense suffered a letdown as SMU shot 56 percent from the floor and won by seven. The Owls grabbed their biggest lead of the game at 15-6, but the Mustangs started sinking shots left and right en route to a six-point halftime lead. SMU drained seven treys in the second half to put the game away. Arsalan Kazemi once again led the way for Rice, posting 21 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Connor Frizzelle scored 17 in the loss, while Tamir Jackson added 12 points. One area in which the Owls have held their own this season is on the boards, as they are +4.9 in rebounding margin thanks largely to Kazemi. The big man is averaging 16.6 points and a league-best 11.6 rebounds per tilt, and he is shooting a rock- solid 56.9 percent from the floor. Jackson (12.7 ppg) and Frizzelle (10.1 ppg) have also made steady contributions at the offensive end.
Tulane is also headlined by a big body down low, as Kendall Timmons is posting team-highs of 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest. He is complemented by Jordan Callahan (13.7 ppg) and Kris Richard (12.5 ppg). Richard is a jack-of- all-trades, as he is grabbing 5.9 boards per tilt and has also knocked down a team-best 43 threes (.374). Despite their struggles in league play, the Green Wave are a +7.4 in scoring margin on the year and are committing just 12.7 turnovers per game (+2.7). However, not a whole lot went right at Southern Miss, as Tulane shot just 37.7 percent from the floor and lost by double digits. The Golden Eagles also held a key 21-4 scoring edge at the foul line for the game, and they took advantage of two separate seven-minute scoring droughts by the Green Wave. Callahan finished with a career-high six threes and led all scorers with 20 points in the loss. Timmons scored 18, while Kevin Thomas contributed a career-best five blocks off the bench.
Both of these teams have fallen on hard times lately. There certainly is still time to turn things around before the C-USA tourney, but this is a big game for both teams. Expect a fierce battle on the glass.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulane 69, Rice 67