Tonight marks the opening game of the 2010 Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic as the Rice Owls host the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans in a non- conference bout at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Multi Team Event moves to South Point Arena in Las Vegas next week for its conclusion.
Despite their 6-4 record, the Trojans have dropped three straight road games after a season opening win at SMU. They return to the road after a three-game homestand, in which they went 2-0 before dropping a 84-70 decision to Ole Miss on Dec. 11th. The loss was the Trojans' first misstep at home this season.
The Owls could easily be sitting on a winning record themselves, as three of their four losses have been decided by three points or less. They finally earned a one-possession victory of their own as they downed Lamar, 75-73, on Dec. 4th. The Owls have not played since the win.
Something has to give tonight, as the series between the Trojans and the Owls is currently knotted at once game apiece. In their last meeting, Rice defeated UALR, 79-72, on Dec. 28, 2008.
UALR allowed Ole Miss to shoot 59.6 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three-point range on Dec. 11th. In addition, only one player scored in double figures for the Trojans, as Matt Mouzy shot 5-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-7 from downtown for his 13 points. Solomon Bozeman leads the team in scoring this season, averaging 12.8 ppg. D'Andre Williams leads the team with 32 assists, while Courtney Jackson, playing largely in a reserve role, contributes 6.8 ppg to go with his team-leading 5.2 rpg. The Trojans have been plagued by slow starts, as opponents have outscored them 336-319 in the first half. After the break though, the Trojans hold a plus-33 point advantage on the year. Overall they are a solid team, shooting 43.7 percent from the floor, while posting a 1.2 assist to turnover ratio and standing virtually even in rebounding margin.
Rice erased a 13-point deficit in its won over Lamar. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak. The Owls were led by Arsalan Kazemi's 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Cory Pflieger contributed 13 points and Tamir Jackson added 12. Kazemi has been a force this season as he leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (10.6 ppg) for a double-double. Jackson averages 12.9 ppg in support. Behind Kazemi, the Owls have posted an impressive plus-4.6 rebounding margin this season. They tend to struggle from the perimeter though, as they make just 30.5 percent of their three-points attempts, while allowing their opponents to hit 7.8 three-pointers per game on 35.2 percent shooting.
Rice has a talented player in Kazemi, but he needs help in order for the Owls to thrive. UALR is due for a win and should find ample shooting room to get the job done.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UALR 68, Rice 60