The Rice Owls try once again to record their first win away from home in 2010-11, as they confront the Stetson Hatters as part of the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Hotel Events Center this afternoon.
Rice hits Sin City riding a two-game win streak, with the most recent of those triumphs coming last week in the first stage of this in-season tournament. On Thursday, the Owls backed up a narrow 75-73 win over Lamar at home with a 65-55 victory versus Arkansas-Little Rock to move to 5-1 at home.
As for the Hatters, they've had an early schedule riddled with tough matchups yet they still kicked off 2010-11 with an 89-79 win over Wake Forest on the road. Last week the team played its fourth straight road date and was taken down by Florida State by a final of 97-63, the team's second straight setback. Outside of the trip to Wake Forest back on November 12th, Stetson has not left the Sunshine State until now.
Rice won the only previous meeting between these two programs by a score of 75-55 back in 1997 in Houston. Regardless of today's outcome, the Hatters will be back in action tomorrow versus Oral Roberts, and Rice will challenge Miami.
With field goal attempts somewhat hard to come by, the Owls made the most of their 47 opportunities as they sank 51.1 percent to capture the double-digit win over UALR at Tudor Fieldhouse last week. Rice was behind by as many as nine points in the meeting, but that's only because the Trojans made good on six of their first nine field goals of the night. Arsalan Kazemi came up a rebound shy of a double-double with his 15 points, while Connor Frizzelle chipped in with 13 points and Tamir Jackson 12 and a team-best eight assists for the victors. A fantastic 63.1 percent shooter from the floor who knows his limitations and has not even bothered to try a single three-pointer so far this season, Kazemi is averaging a double-double for the team with his 15.7 points and 10.4 rpg. Jackson accounts for another 12.8 ppg and is first for the Owls with 25 assists through nine games, an area which appears to be well under control right now with everyone doing their part.
The Hatters dug themselves a huge hole in the first half against Florida State, shooting a mere 7-of-26 from the floor, and were never able to recover as they suffered the lopsided loss at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee. Ridge Graham led three players in double figures with his 14 points, adding six rebounds, while Corey Walden accounted for 11 points, but he also fouled out after turning the ball over six times in 14 minutes of action. Off the bench it was Jermol Paul with 10 points in the losing cause. The only one to start all nine games thus far, it only figures that Graham is the top scorer for Stetson with his 15.9 ppg and is also first on the glass with close to seven and a half per outing. However, Graham's performances have had more than a few holes in them with just 51.0 percent shooting at the free-throw line and 32 turnovers, against just 12 assists.
The Hatters had their one moment of glory early in the season, but now opponents know what to expect and a team like Rice should be well prepared for today's meeting.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 68, Stetson 60