Meeting for the first time this season, the East Carolina Pirates and the Rice Owls will square-off tonight in a Conference USA showdown at Tudor Fieldhouse.
East Carolina last played on Wednesday night, in an 83-76 win over Texas-El Paso. The victory halted a three-game slide. The Pirates are now two games ahead of three teams, including Rice, for eighth place in the C-USA standings. They are 2-4 in league road games.
Rice has compiled a 4-9 record in C-USA play to trail East Carolina. The Owls have lost four of their last five contests and are just 2-4 in league home games.
With respect to the all-time series, tonight's matchup marks the 10th meeting between East Carolina and Rice. The Owls currently hold a 5-4 lead over the Pirates.
Leading 29-27 at the break on Wednesday night, East Carolina used a phenomenal second half effort from the charity strip to down UTEP. The Pirates racked up 54 points over the final 20 minutes of action, with 30 of those points coming from the foul line. They shot 81.1 percent from the charity stripe over that span (30-of-37) as opposed to 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from UTEP. Jamar Abrams turned in a strong performance in the victory, as he scored a game-high 25 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He hit five of the Pirates' six three-pointers and went 4-of-6 from the charity stripe. Jontae Sherrod drew fouls with frequency, as 15 of his 21 points came from the charity stripe, while Darrius Morrow went 7-of-10 from the line and contributed 19 points and nine boards. East Carolina has enjoyed an advantage at the foul line this season, earning 677 free throw attempts to its opponents' 583. Sherrod has gotten to the line a team-high 122 times and paces the squad in scoring at 15.2 ppg. Morrow is second in trips to the line (118) and scoring (12.2 ppg). The Pirates average 68.9 ppg, while allowing 67.4 on the defensive end.
Rice last played on Wednesday as well, falling 76-66 to SMU in overtime. The Owls cannot be faulted for a lack of effort, as they executed a frenetic run to force the extra session. Down 50-39 with two minutes to play, to Owls drained four three-pointers to erase the deficit. The effort went for naught, however, as SMU freshman guard Jeremiah Samarrippas tallied seven points in overtime to hand the Owls the loss. Tamir Jackson led Rice in defeat, as he hit 6-of-14 shots and 10-of-13 free throws, to record 22 points. Lucas Kuipers and Connor Frizzelle added 16 and 15 points, respectively. The Owls were outscored 32-18 from the free throw line in the loss. Kazemi (15.3 ppg), Jackson (13.9 ppg) and Frizzelle (11 ppg) lead Rice to 67.4 ppg on the year. The Owls are hurt by a lack of perimeter defense, as they give up 7.7 three- pointers per game. Opponents are scoring 67.3 ppg against the Owls.
East Carolina should be able to distance itself from Rice tonight behind another strong effort from the foul line. The Owls have proven that their home court does not offer them much of an advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: East Carolina 68, Rice 63