Jan. 5, 2010
HOUSTON COUGARS (7-6 0-0 C-USA) at RICE OWLS (6-7 0-0 C-USA)
Jan. 6, 2010 Tudor Fieldhouse (5,208) Houston, Texas 8 p.m.
RADIO: Houston-ISP Sports Radio Network SportsTalk 790 AM-Houston Tom Franklin, PxP
INTERNET AUDIO : live audio broadcast
TELEVISION: CSS (Houston Comcast channel 129) Bernie Guenther, PxP Brian Oliver, analyst
INTERNET VIDEO : live video broadcast
LIVE STATS: GameTracker
HOUSTON - With the holidays over, the University of Houston men's basketball team begins the most important part of the 2009-10 season with the start of Conference USA play.
The Cougars open their league slate with a familiar rival, squaring off against crosstown-rival Rice at 8 p.m., Wednesday, at Tudor Fieldhouse in a game televised by CSS.
The Cougars look to snap a season-long, three-game losing streak when they face the Owls. Those three losses have been by a combined 13 points, including an 83-82 setback at UTSA on Jan. 1 and an 82-75 loss at Big 12 Conference member Iowa State that wasn't decided until double overtime.
Houston looks to enjoy its recent success against the Owls. The Cougars have won their last six games against Rice, including a 56-51 victory on Feb. 28, 2009, in the most recent action.
Senior guard Aubrey Coleman continues to lead the Cougars, C-USA and the nation with 25.5 points and 3.3 steals per game. The Houston native has scored at least 20 points in 10 games, including three 30-point efforts.
Senior guard Kelvin Lewis ranks second on the team and fourth in the league with 18.2 points per game and is tied for the national lead with 3.9 3-pointers per game.
The Cougars are the only team who can boast of having two of the top-four scorers in the league. No other team has two scorers among the top nine leaders.
Sophomore point guard Desmond Wade ranks fourth on the team with 7.8 points per game, reaching double digits in each of the last two contests. The Linden, N.J., native also ranks among the nation's top-10 leaders with a 3.2-1 assist-turnover ratio, dishing out a team-high 74 assists with only 23 giveaways.
Junior guard Zamal Nixon has emerged as a hot scorer recently, reaching double digits in two of the last three games, including a career-high 29 points at UTSA on New Year's Day.
Fans can hear Wednesday's game live on SportsTalk 790 AM or on the Internet at UHCougars.com with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action. The pregame show is slated to begin at 7:45 p.m.
Fans can follow live stats from Wednesday's game by clicking the GameTracker link at UHCougars.com.
Rice enters Wednesday's Conference USA opener on the heels of a 70-58 loss at TCU on Saturday. It was the Owls' third loss in their last four games.
Against the Horned Frogs, Arsalan Kazemi led the Owls with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 shooting from the free throw line. He was the only Rice player to reach double digits in scoring.
This season, Tamir Jackson leads the Owls with 10.8 points and 3.0 assists per game. Kazemi is a close second with 10.3 points per contest but leads the Owls with 7.7 rebounds per game.
Ben Braun is in his second year at the helm of the Rice bench, posting a 16-29 (.356) record during that time. In more than 32 seasons as a head coach, Braun has compiled a 568-418 (.587) career record. He previously served as head coach at Siena Heights (1977-85), Eastern Michigan (1985-96) and California (1996-08) before taking over at Rice for the 2008-09 season.
Braun is 2-3 against the Cougars during his career. That includes a 2-1 mark during his stint at California and an 0-2 mark at Rice.
SERIES HISTORY vs. RICE
For the 15th straight season and the 37th in the last 39 years, the Cougars face Rice on the hardwood. The Cougars own a 55-14 (.797) lead in the all-time series, which began in 1971-72 and has been played at least once every year since the 1998-99 campaign.
With the exception of the 1996-97 and the 1997-98 seasons, the Cougars have played Rice at least once every year since 1971-72.
The Cougars also bring a six-game winning streak against the Owls into Wednesday's game after enjoying a 56-51 win on Feb. 28, 2009 inside Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Owls rank as one of the most regular opponents in UH history. With Wednesday's game, Rice will become the second-most common opponent in Houston history with 70 games played. Texas A&M is the most common opponent in UH history, facing the Cougars 83 times.
The Cougars have posted a 22-10 (.688) all-time record at Rice. Tudor Fieldhouse and Autry Court (Rice's old home facility) have become hostile places for the Cougars in recent history. UH has lost six of its last seven road games against Rice.
However, the Cougars can boast of the most recent success on Rice's home court after a 56-51 win on Feb. 28, 2009. That loss snapped a six-game losing streak to the Owls on their home court and was Houston's first road win there since a 76-74 win on Jan. 13, 1996.
The Cougars enjoyed a 69-60 win against the Owls on Jan. 23, 2008 in a game that Rice hosted. However, that contest was played at Reliant Stadium.
The Cougars continue their Conference USA schedule with a pair of consecutive home games at the friendly confines of Hofheinz Pavilion. It will be the last time during the 2009-10 regular season that the Cougars will play back-to-back games at home.
The brief home stand begins at 6 p.m., Saturday, against Tulsa in a game televised by CSS. From there, the team plays host to UTEP at 7 p.m., Jan. 13.
Fans can purchase men's basketball tickets online at UHCougars.com by clicking the Tickets link, by calling 713-GO-COOGS (462-6647) or by visiting the Athletics Ticket Office on the first floor of the Athletics/Alumni Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Single-game tickets and a variety of packages also are available now and can be purchased for as low as $35.