GAME NOTES: The Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic will continue this afternoon when the Rice Owls and the Miami-Florida Hurricanes collide on the hardwood at the South Point Hotel Events Center.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the basketball court.
After suffering their third loss on the season with an 84-78 setback to UCF, the Hurricanes bounced back into the win column with a 69-56 decision over Oral Roberts in the first round of this tourney. It was the eighth win on the season for Miami-Florida, which was riding a five-game winning streak before losing to UCF.
As for the Owls, they opened this tournament with a thrilling, 66-63 decision over Stetson. It was the third straight win for Rice, which lost four of its five matchups before going on this streak.
After a poor start against Oral Roberts, the Hurricanes used a 56.5 percent shooting effort over the final 20 minutes of play, en route to a 13-point victory over the Golden Eagles. Malcolm Grant, who entered the matchup averaging 14.3 ppg, led the way against Oral Roberts, as the guard scored 15 points. Reggie Johnson added a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Durand Scott also contributed 14 points. Scott and Johnson have also played key roles in the team's success this season, as Scott is currently netting 13.8 ppg, to go along with 41 assists, while Johnson is averaging 11.5 ppg and a team-best 9.3 rpg.
It wasn't pretty, but the Owls did just enough to slip past Stetson on Tuesday. Rice shot a solid 44.2 percent from the floor, but finished just 7- of-23 from long range and only 13-of-23 from the foul line. Arsalan Kazemi has been the top payer on Rice since last season, and this year the forward continues to impress. Against Stetson, Kazemi finished with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds and is now averaging 16.0 ppg and 10.6 rpg. Tamir Jackson is the only other player posting double figures on the year, as the guard is producing 12.5 ppg. In the recent win for Rice, Jackson tallied 10 points, while Trey Stanton helped off the bench with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Kazemi is a tough matchup for almost any team, so expect Rice's big man to get his points, and cause trouble on the boards. However, the Owls will need other players to step up if they want to grab a victory this evening. Kazemi should keep Rice close, but look for the Hurricanes to weather the storm and earn a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Florida 71, Rice 62