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Rice Tries To Keep Momentum From Upset Going Against SMU

With the regular season quickly coming to an end the SMU Mustangs will try to raise their level of play when they host the Rice Owls in Conference-USA action at Moody Coliseum.

The Owls have not had much success on the season, and it shows in the team's conference record which sits at 4-8. The Owls however, were able to get a victory last time out, clobbered Memphis over the weekend, 67-52, snapping their three-game losing skid.

The Mustangs were surging through the conference standings, riding high on a five-game winning streak, but that run has come and gone, and now the Mustangs are just trying to stay relevant in the conference. Since that five-game streak, the Mustangs have dropped two of their last three matchups, falling to 7-5 in league play. The recent loss, a 74-66 setback to Tulsa, was especially hard to swallow, because it came at Moody Coliseum where the team has claimed 12 of its 16 wins this year.

The Mustangs defeated Rice earlier this season, 75-68, and that win was the third straight for SMU against the Owls. With the recent run, SMU has extended its lead over the Owls in the all-time series to 117-74.

The Owls' up and down season can be attributed to the team's inability to find much consistency at the offensive end of the floor. Rice, which is averaging a lackluster 67.5 ppg on the year, is shooting a respectable 43.6 percent from the field, but the team's efforts from behind the arc have been erratic, as Rice is shooting at a 32.5 percent rate from long range. The last time Rice was on the floor the team only scored 67 points, but that was good enough to get the Owls past Memphis. Tamir Jackson, who is averaging 13.5 ppg on the year, led the way in the win with 20 points, while Arsalan Kazemi, the team's top performer (15.7 ppg and 11.5 rpg) finished with a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Conner Frizzelle (10.8 ppg) also helped out in the win, netting 12 points in 29 minutes of action.

The Mustangs have been successful this season mainly because of their play defensively, as they are limiting the opposition to just 61.8 ppg. However, SMU had a meltdown in that area in its last contest, as the team surrendered 74 points in a loss to Tulsa. SMU, which is averaging 66.3 ppg on the season, but forth its usual offensive effort, as the team tallied 66 points against the Golden Hurricane. The Mustangs shot 45.0 percent in the loss and even made 23-of-30 attempts from the foul line, but the team's 19 turnovers were simply too much to overcome. Robert Nyakundi, who is averaging 15.7 ppg, led the way with 22 points in the loss, while Papa Dia, the team's top performer (18.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg) finished with 18 points and eight boards.

The Mustangs are not going to punish teams offensively, but they are stingy enough to shut down opponents and that is exactly what they should do this evening to a Rice squad that has had trouble at times offensively.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 68, Rice 55

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