The Rice Owls and Tulsa Golden Hurricane opened their respective Conference USA schedules with a loss Wednesday night, and they'll both try to rebound tonight as they square off against one another at the Reynolds Center.
Rice closed out a three-game homestand with an 85-81 loss to Tulane in its league opener earlier this week. The Owls have lost all three of their true road outings so far, and they are 1-5 overall in games played outside of the Tudor Fieldhouse. Beginning tonight, three of their next four games will be on opposing hardwoods.
Tulsa returned from a five-day layoff with a 69-59 setback at Texas-El Paso in its league lid-lifter Wednesday night. That loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for the Golden Hurricane, who are an even 7-7 on the season. Following this evening's tilt, they'll step out of C-USA play to take on Arizona State on Wednesday, before returning home to host UAB next Saturday.
Tulsa has had Rice's number in the all-time series, as the Golden Hurricane have won 20 of the 26 prior meetings.
Rice's home loss to Tulane was a tough one to swallow, as the Owls posted 81 points in a game that featured 18 lead changes, only to come up short. Rice shot an ultra-efficient 55.6 percent for the game, but Tulane was automatic in the second half, knocking down 7-of-7 three-pointers in addition to 23 points at the foul line. The loss wiped out a Herculean effort from Owls' forward Arsalan Kazemi, who scored a career-high 28 points. Kazemi also posted game- highs of 13 rebounds and four blocks. Tamir Jackson and Trey Stanton finished with 12 points apiece in the loss. Kazemi heads up the squad with 18.2 ppg and is shooting a ridiculous 64.3 percent from the floor. He is also pulling down a league-best 11.3 boards per tilt, as the Owls are out-rebounding their opponents by an average margin of 4.8 rpg. Jackson is next in line in the scoring column with 13.4 ppg.
Tulsa senior guard Justin Hurtt is C-USA's leading scorer, averaging 21.8 ppg. Hurtt is deadly from the perimeter, where he is shooting 40.6 percent, and he is also an 89.4-percent shooter from the charity stripe. Scottie Haralson (12.9 ppg) is another player who is shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range, while Jordan Clarkson adds 11.4 ppg to the mix. Down low, Steven Idlet is posting 13.7 ppg and a team-best 6.6 boards. Idlet has helped Tulsa to a +4.2 rebounding advantage on the season. The Golden Hurricane are putting up an average of 73 ppg, however the shots simply weren't falling at UTEP Wednesday night as they put just 59 points on the board. Tulsa also committed 21 turnovers, which yielded a key 27-10 advantage for the Miners in points off turnovers for the game. Hurtt finished with a team-high 21 points, though he was responsible for six of those turnovers and shot just 6-of-17 from the floor. Bryson Pope joined him in double figures with 10 points.
This game will pit two of C-USA's top players against one another in Kazemi and Hurtt. The Golden Hurricane have the big bodies to bang with Kazemi, and they also have more offensive firepower in the backcourt.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 79, Rice 72