March 03, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Rice Owls forward Emerson Herndon (5) attemtps to score in the first half against the Houston Cougars at Tudor Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Conference USA Tournament: Houston, Rice Eliminated

The Houston Cougars and the Rice Owls were both eliminated from the Conference USA tournament on the first day.

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Houston Vs. UTEP Final Score: Cougars Fall To Miners In Overtime, 67-62

Overtime was needed to decide the game between the Houston Cougars and UTEP Miners, and it was UTEP who was victorious by winning 67-62. Houston had a chance to win the game in regulation when they led 53-51 with 38 seconds left, but UTEP's John Bohannon was able to get past the Houston defense to make a layup to tie the game with 19 seconds left.

Houston's Alandise Harris had a chance to win with two seconds left, but his jumper did not fall so the two teams went to overtime. Houston had issues in overtime as they only scored four points on 2-of-9 shooting and allowed UTEP to score nine points.

Houston was led in scoring by Harris who scored 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting, but in overtime he missed his only shot as well as a pair of free throws.

With the loss Houston falls to 15-15 on the year and now wait to see if they are selected to attend the NIT, CBI or CIT.

For more UTEP go visit Miner Rush and for on everything March Madness, be sure to check out SB Nation's college basketball page.

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Houston Vs. UTEP Halftime Score: Cougars Lead Miners 25-21

The Houston Cougars and UTEP Miners are in a low scoring battle at the half with Houston leading 25-21. Both teams are struggling on offense with Houston shooting 37 percent with UTEP shooting an even lower 32 percent. Houston has tried to rely on their three-point shot to get ahead but so far they have only made 3-of-11.

Houston has only four players who have scored tonight with Alandise Harris and Jonathon Simmons combining for 17 of the teams 25 points. Harris is leading the way for Houston with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting as well as grabbing six rebounds with Simmons contributing with eight points, three assists and two rebounds.

UTEP has spread the scoring out more with John Bohannon leading the Miners with eight points at the half.

For more UTEP go visit Miner Rush and for on everything March Madness, be sure to check out SB Nation's college basketball page.

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Rice Vs. East Carolina Final Score: Owls Fall Just Short 68-66

Rice's 2011-2012 season came to a disappointing end on Wednesday, as the Owls fell 68-66 to East Carolina in the first round of the C-USA Tournament in Memphis.

Rice, the No. 7 seed with a 17-14 record, was a slight favorite over East Carolina, the No. 10 seed with a 14-15 overall mark.

However, despite having a six-point lead with less than six minutes left, they couldn't hold on against the Pirates, as junior F Arsalan Kazemi's potential game-tying jumper fell short in the final minute. Rice fouled East Carolina G Miguel Paul on the rebound, giving the Pirates a decisive 68-64 lead that effectively ended the game.

Kazemi finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds while freshman PG Dylan Ennis orchestrated the offense, handing out 11 assists in a losing effort.

East Carolina was led by 16 points from 6'8 245 senior forward Darrius Morris.

While Rice is eligible for post-season play, it remains to be seen whether one of the newer post-season events will pick them up after the NCAA and the NIT wrap up their selections on Sunday.

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Conference USA Tournament 2012, Rice Vs. East Carolina: TV Info, Preview And More

Rice (17-14) hopes to break their losing ways in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament and make a run at a NCAA Tournament bid by advancing past East Carolina (14-15) and pulling a second round upset of No. 2 seed Southern Miss, considered a Tournament lock. The Pirates enter the tournament with just a 5-11 conference record, but with two back-to-back wins over Marshall and Tulane.

Rice junior forward Arsalan Kazemi is one of two players in C-USA to average a double-double this season and heads into this week's conference tournament averaging 12.5 points and 10.3 rebounds.

For a complete look at the C-USA Tournament bracket, click here.

Date / Time: Wednesday, March 7, Noon CT

Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee

TV: n/a

Radio: Rice Owls Radio Network

Streaming: CBS Sports (subscription)

Line: Rice (-1.5)

For more on everything March Madness, be sure to check out SB Nation's college basketball page.

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Conference USA Tournament 2012: Bracket, Schedule And More

A whole host of would-be Cinderella squads will tip off at the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday in the C-USA Tournament. All eight teams playing in the first round have NCAA Tournament hopes rest that solely in winning the conference tournament itself. The consensus among bracketology experts is that the C-USA will send only two teams as potential at-large bids - Memphis and Southern Miss, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeded schools in the tournament.

Rice (17-14) and Houston (15-14) would have to play the Golden Eagles and Tigers, respectively, if they can advance past first-round action.

All four games are airing on CSS, and can be viewed online here with a subscription account to CBS.

Game 1: Rice (7) vs. East Carolina (10), Noon CT

Game 2: Marshall (6) vs. SMU (11), 2:30 p.m. CT

Game 3: UTEP (8) vs. Houston (9), 6:30 p.m. CT

Game 4: UAB (5) vs. Tulane (12), 9 p.m. CT

For more March Madness coverage, check out SB Nation's college basketball page.

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Upset-Minded Cougars, Owls Head To Memphis

It has been an up-and-down season for both of the city of Houston's Conference USA basketball squads. In fact, as the regular season gives way to the conference tournament, both Houston and Rice find themselves in similar situations. Both scored a signature non-conference road upset early on (Arkansas for the Cougars, Texas A&M for the Owls), both beat one of the top teams in C-USA (UH beating Southern Miss, Rice beating UCF), neither team is lacking in talent or reasons for optimism, but both struggled to just .500 overall records against Division 1 opponents.

Both will need to make a miracle run in the Conference USA tournament, and win four games in four days, to get to participate in significant postseason play. But UH did just that two years ago, so why not Houston or Rice this time around?

Without further ado, here's the argument for and against each team making a Cinderella run in the conference tournament:

Houston will make a run because...

They're getting hot at the right time. After a 3-8 start to their conference slate, the Coogs have won four of their last five, including a win over second-place Southern Miss, a 29-point blowout of Tulane, and the end to Houston's three-game losing streak against Rice.

Especially hot as of late is UH's only senior, guard Darian Thibodeaux. Through the team's first 27 games this year, "Tip" averaged just 5.2 points per game, a greater than three point-per-game drop from last year. Former Cougar great and current radio color commentator Elvin Hayes observed that often, it seemed like Thibodeaux wasn't even looking at the basket when he got the ball. But finally, it appears that the switch was flipped. In Houston's last two games, Tip shot over 50% from the field, drained seven three-pointers and scored total 33 points. Even more startlingly, in those two games, the starters who were Thibodeaux's primary defensive responsibility scored a combined zero points on 0-13 shooting. Not bad, considering that the two (Ricky Tarrant of Tulane and Connor Frizzelle of Rice) are averaging a combined 24.5 points per game.

Highly-touted freshmen Joseph Young and TaShawn Thomas have also greatly improved their consistency as the year has gone on. In Houston's first 20 contests, Young broke double-digits in scoring ten times, but also had five outings of 4 points or less. Young has now topped double digits in eight of the team's last nine games. Thomas has had eight games of 5 or fewer rebounds this year, and the Coogs have won just two of those eight games. But during Houston's four-wins-in-five-games streak, Thomas is averaging 9.6 rebounds, never pulling down less than 7 in a game.

At the end of the day, the Cougars are a team with a tremendous amount of athleticism and talent. Getting them to play hard for 40 minutes, play as a team, and play with consistent focus on defense (they're dead last in C-USA in scoring defense, over 5 points per game worst than the second-to-last school) has been a problem. But when it happens, the sky is the limit.

Houston won't make a run because...

They don't have a good point guard or a center. The Cougars are flush with athletes at the 2-through-4 positions, but they don't have a post defender who can shut down talented opposing forwards, and they can struggle in the half-court offense due to the lack of a true point.

And that whole consistency issue is by no means entirely in the rear-view mirror. Even inside of Houston's impressive five-game run is an eight-point halftime lead that was turned into an eight-point loss against Marshall, a 13-point second-half lead against Rice that Houston blew before pulling out the win in the closing seconds, and a measly three-point home win against lousy SMU.

The bracket doesn't do Houston any favors, either. They play UTEP in the first round (a team that outscored Houston by a combined 15 points in their two meetings), and if they get past the Miners, they will face host Memphis (a team that beat the Cougars by 34 points in Houston) in the second round.

Oh, and the Cougars are 1-9 outside of the city of Houston this year.

Quotable: "Harder practices have made us compete harder in the game. Having that will to compete and refusing to get screened, refusing to be driven on and just being tougher. We have not defended as a whole all year but we've defended better the last two or three weeks." --James Dickey

Rice will make a run because...

When things are going well, Rice has arguably the best front court in the conference, in double-double machine Arsalan Kazemi and the sometimes-brilliant 7-foot-2 Omar Oraby. Freshman Dylan Ennis is a legitimate distributor at the point, junior Tamir Jackson provides an experienced scorer on the wing, and there are enough shooters (Frizzelle and Lucas Kuipers) and athletes (Ahmad Ibrahim and Jarelle Reischel) that you can't zero in on any one player.

Oraby is the biggest potential X-factor for the Owls. It's been hard to predict how the inexperienced big man will fare from one game to the next, but on paper, he could have some big games early on. Rice's first-round opponent, ECU, doesn't have a rotation player taller than 6-foot-8. That means Oraby will have a six-inch advantage on anybody who guards him. If the Owls beat the Pirates and advance, they will face Southern Miss, whose sole regular standing taller than 6-foot-7 is Maurice Bolden, who is 6'10", but weighs just 200 pounds, and is more comfortable on the wing than down low. If Oraby comes out aggressively in Rice's first two games, I'm not sure who's guarding him. (It's worth mentioning that a couple of weeks ago, the Owls lost to the Golden Eagles by just two points, in Hattiesburg, even without a strong performance from Oraby.)

And given the way Rice's most recent game ended (here's a refresher: it resulted in Kazemi having to be physically restrained by a teammate), they should be highly motivated to get back on the court and start playing with some fire.

Rice won't make a run because...

On paper, the Owls have a top-of-the-conference type of team. They have players at every position, they have experience, they have a star in Kazemi, and they don't have a major weakness. On the court, it hasn't worked out quite so well. Keep in mind, the Owls will need four wins in four days to get to the NCAA tournament. Rice hasn't had a four-game winning streak against Division 1 opponents at any point this year this year - their longest winning streak was a season-opening winning three-game run against such powers as Southern University, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Florida A&M.

And for as much as Oraby should have a big game against ECU and USM, when facing those two teams this year the Owls lost to the Pirates by 14, and lost to the Golden Eagles with USM's leading scoring sitting out. Oraby's combined line in those two games was 23 minutes, 8 points, and 3 rebounds.

Quotable: "Our primary goal right now is to advance to get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. We know we have to win our conference tournament to do that. That's a tall order but it can be done." --Ben Braun

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2012 Conference USA Tournament: Houston Draws First-Round Matchup With UTEP

The Houston Cougars struggled their way to a ninth place finish in the 2012 Conference USA standings. They will be the No. 9 seed on Wednesday when they take on eighth seeded UTEP in the first-round of the 2012 Conference USA Championship in Memphis.

Houston and UTEP split the season series during the regular season with each team winning on their home floor. The Cougars suffered a 70-50 loss to the Miners on January 7 and returned the favor on January 28 with an 81-76 win in overtime. The winner will advance to take on top-seeded Memphis on Thursday.

Here is a look at the rest of the first-round matchups for Wednesday, March 7:

(7) Rice vs. (10) East Carolina (CSS) 12:00p
(6) Marshall vs. (11) SMU (CSS) 2:30p
(8) UTEP vs. (9) Houston (CSS) 6:30p
(5) UAB vs. (12) Tulane (CSS) 9:00p

For more on this game and the Conference USA Championship, head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball page.

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Conference USA Tournament 2012: Rice Draws Opening Round Matchup With East Carolina

The Rice Owls will open the 2012 Conference USA Championship on Wednesday, March 7 at noon CT against tenth seeded East Carolina. The Pirates finished 5-11 on the season in conference play but won the only regular season matchup against the Owls 82-68. Rice finished at .500 in conference play with an 8-8 record.

Looking ahead, if Rice can get past East Carolina they will take on the No. 2 seed in Southern Miss on Thursday. The Eagles defeated Rice in the only regular season meeting 58-56. Southern Miss earned the two seed in the tournament by going 11-5 in conference play.

Here is a look at the rest of the first-round matchups for Wednesday, March 7:

(7) Rice vs. (10) East Carolina (CSS) 12:00p
(6) Marshall vs. (11) SMU (CSS) 2:30p
(8) UTEP vs. (9) Houston (CSS) 6:30p
(5) UAB vs. (12) Tulane (CSS) 9:00p

For more on this game and the Conference USA Championship, head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball page.

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2012 Conference USA Standings: Rice, Houston Finish In Lower Half

The final standings for the 2012 Conference USA regular season are in and the tournament pairings have been announced. The Memphis Tigers enter the tournament as the top seed after winning the regular season title for the fifth time in the past seven seasons with a 13-3 conference record. Southern Miss takes the second seed and is followed by Central Florida and Tulsa.

The Rice Owls finished with an 8-8 conference mark and enter the conference tournament as the No. 7 seed. Houston finished with a 7-9 mark and earns the ninth seed in the tournament that begins on Wednesday, March 7.

Here is a look at the final Conference USA standings:


Conference USA Standings

(updated 3.4.2012 at 3:21 AM EST)

Conf Overall
W L W L
Memphis Tigers 13 3 23 8
Southern Miss. Golden Eagles 11 5 24 7
Central Florida Knights 10 6 21 9
Tulsa Golden Hurricane 10 6 17 13
Marshall Thundering Herd 9 7 18 12
UAB Blazers 9 7 14 15
Rice Owls 8 8 17 14
Houston Cougars 7 9 15 14
UTEP Miners 7 9 14 16
East Carolina Pirates 5 11 14 15
SMU Mustangs 4 12 13 18
Tulane Green Wave 3 13 15 15

The 2012 Conference USA Championship will be played at the FedExForum in Memphis from Wednesday, March 7 through Saturday, March 10. The top four finishers in the regular season all receive byes in the first-round of the tournament.

Here is the complete Conference USA Championship matchups and schedule:

(All times central)

Wednesday, March 7

(7) Rice vs. (10) East Carolina (CSS) 12:00p
(6) Marshall vs. (11) SMU (CSS) 2:30p
(8) UTEP vs. (9) Houston (CSS) 6:30p
(5) UAB vs. (12) Tulane (CSS) 9:00p

Thursday, March 8

(2) Southern Miss vs. Rice/ECU (CBS Sports Network) 12:00p
(3) Tulsa vs. Marshall/SMU (CBS Sports Network) 2:30p
(1) Memphis vs. UTEP/HOU (CBS Sports Network) 6:30p
(4) UCF vs. UAB/Tulane (CBS Sports Network) 9:00p

Friday, March 9

Semifinal # 1 (CBS Sports Network) 3:00p
Semifinal # 2 (CBS Sports Network) 5:30p

Saturday, March 10 Championship Game (CBS) - 10:35a

For more college hoops news and analysis head on over to SB Nation's College Basketball Page.

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2012 Conference USA Tournament: Bracket, Schedule And More

The Houston Cougars and the Rice Owls will take their talents to Memphis for the 2012 C-USA tournament. Here is the official schedule and bracket for Wednesday.

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