The Rice Owls and Tulane Green Wave are set to open their respective Conference USA schedules, as the two will square off tonight at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston, Texas.
Tulane has been on a roll, as the team enters this tilt with wins in four straight games and seven of its last eight overall. On Sunday, the Green Wave cruised past Texas-Pan American, 88-65. Following tonight's contest, they'll return home for three of their next four outings.
Rice has certainly taken advantage of its home schedule thus far, winning seven of its eight games at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Owls are hoping for another victory tonight to close out a 3-0 homestand. So far during that stretch, they've been able to knock off LSU (74-68) and TCU (70-61).
Tulane has won seven straight meetings with Rice to take a 23-21 series edge. Most recently, the Green Wave notched an overtime victory at Tudor Fieldhouse in February of last year.
The Green Wave have reeled off four straight wins since a tough setback at VCU on December 18th, albeit as heavy favorites in all four of those contests. Texas-Pan American offered little resistance in Sunday evening's matchup, as Tulane put up 56 points in the second half to pull away. Still, the Green Wave took care of the little things, as they sank an impressive 26-of-30 free throws and held a 39-21 rebounding advantage for the game. Jordan Callahan had the hot hand, finishing with a game-high 22 points behind 4-of-7 shooting from the perimeter and an 8-of-8 effort at the charity stripe. Aaron Holmes was next in line with 17 points, while Kendall Timmons (16 pts, nine rebs) and David Booker (15 pts, nine rebs) also filled the box score. On the season, Timmons paces the squad in both scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg). Callahan is averaging 12.9 ppg, and he is joined in double figures by Kris Richard (12.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Holmes (11.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg). As a team, Tulane is a +13.5 in scoring margin, +4.5 in rebounding margin and +4.1 in turnover margin.
Rice forward Arsalan Kazemi commands a lot of attention in the paint, as he is averaging a double-double with 17.5 points and a league-best 11.1 rebounds per tilt. The key is trying to deny him the ball near the basket, as Kazemi is shooting an ultra-efficient 63.4 percent from the field. He is complemented out on the perimeter by guard Tamir Jackson, who averages 13.5 points and a team-best 3.1 assists. With Kazemi patrolling the blocks, the Owls should be able to hold their own in the rebounding department (+4.9). However, they lack a true outside shooting threat as they are hitting just 30.4 percent from the perimeter as a team. Against TCU this past Sunday, Rice dropped just 2-of-16 three-point tries but made up for it by knocking down 26-of-30 free throws. Kazemi once again led the way with game-highs of 20 points and eight boards. Jackson scored 12 points in the win, while reserves Connor Frizzelle and Trey Stanton netted 14 and 11 points, respectively.
The Green Wave have had Rice's number of late, but an eighth straight victory in the series won't just be handed to them on the Owls' home floor. As long as the Owls continue to play tough defense and hit their free throws, they'll give themselves a chance to win this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 68, Tulane 65