So Christmas day has finally arrived and with all eyes back on the NBA, but let's not forget about the Houston basketball teams not named the Rockets. The Rice Owls and Houston Cougars head into a brief Christmas vacation with some positives and negatives that Santa may have noticed as the first third of the season comes to an end.
Let's start with the Houston Cougars (6-5, 0-0 C-USA) who got off to a stellar 3-0 start to the season. The Cougars best win came early on with a 87-78 road win Nov. 18 at Arkansas. Houston has sinced cooled off having lost five of their last eight games with two non-conference games left before C-USA play tips-off Jan.4 vs. Tulsa.
The Cougars have been scoring the ball well (79.7 points per game) in a current two-game win streak against UTSA and Rogers State. Jonathon Simmons has been on fire with 20 or more points in five straight games as the Cougars look to build some momentum with conference play just around the corner.
Alandise Harris is also averaging just under 15 points per game and is hauling in 6.3 rebounds to provide Simmons with some balanced scoring on the floor.
Are the Owls better? After a 4-0 start, Rice has also cooled down as well, but at one point found themselves at 7-2 after nine games. The Owls have been rebounding the heck out of the ball this season with 41.2 rebounds per game (9th in NCAA). Rice is coming off a huge win 65-58 against NCAA Tournament regular participant Texas A&M and has 1-10 Texas A&M-CC in town Dec. 28 before a New Year's Eve showdown at rival Texas.Rice should be 9-4 heading into the game in Austin against the 9-3 Longhorns who are coming off a 19-point defeat at #6 North Carolina.
Arsalan Kazemi has led the way this season with 14 points per game while shooting the ball at 61%. Kazemi has scored in double-figures in 10 of his 11 games he's played this season and has also managed to bring in 11 or more rebounds in nine of his 11 games.
Tulane (11-2, 0-0 C-USA) and Southern Miss. (10-2, 0-0 C-USA) are atop the C-USA with conference games tipping-off in about a week with Rice and Houston both playing average basketball. The Owls have the better record and a win against the Aggies that should be huge for team moral in a Owls locker room. Rice hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1970.