Men's Basketball Closes Regular Season at Rice
March 1, 2012
HOUSTON - Winners of three of its last four games, the University of Houston men's basketball team wraps up its regular-season schedule when it meets crosstown- and Conference USA-rival Rice at 7 p.m., Saturday, inside Tudor Fieldhouse on the Rice campus.
The Cougars enter this weekend's finale on the heels of a dominating 82-53 win against Tulane on Wednesday inside Hofheinz Pavilion. Against the Green Wave, all five starters posted double-digit points with junior guard Jonathon Simmons leading all players with 23 points.
Playing in his final regular-season game at Hofheinz Pavilion, senior guard Darian Thibodeaux broke out of a slump with 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and added four rebounds with a career-high seven assists while playing all but one minute.
Thibodeaux also led a Cougar defense that held Tulane guard Ricky Tarrant scoreless. Tarrant entered Wednesday's game with a league-best 19.6 points per game in C-USA games only.
This season, Simmons leads the Cougars with 15.0 points per game and ranks among the C-USA leaders in scoring and field-goal percentage.
Sophomore forward Alandise Harris ranks second on the team with 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while freshman TaShawn Thomas paces the team with 8.1 rebounds per contest. The Killeen, Texas, native leads all Conference USA freshmen with eight double-doubles and is tied for fifth in the league among all players.
ON THE AIR
Fans can hear Saturday's game live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Cougar legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes providing analysis. The pregame show is slated to begin at 6:45 p.m., Saturday.
Fans also can watch the game live on CSS with Craig Ackerman as the play-by-play announcer and Matt Bullard as analyst. The game can be seen live in Houston on Comcast Channel 129.
Fans can see and hear the audio and video streams live at UHCougars.com by clicking the All-Access tab and following the appropriate links to sign up for Cougar All-Access. A charge is required to hear games via Cougar All-Access.
Rice owns a 17-13 overall record and is tied for sixth with Marshall in Conference USA with an 8-7 mark. The Owls are 11-5 at Tudor Fieldhouse this season.
In its most recent action, Rice claimed a 68-61 win at UTEP in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday. Trailing 29-27 at halftime, the Owls outscored UTEP 41-32 in the final 20 minutes to sweep the regular-season series.
Against the Miners, forward Arsalan Kazemi and guard Connor Frizzelle tied for team-high honors with 12 points apiece. Ahmad Ibrahim came off the bench and forward Jarelle Reishcel added 10 points each.
Kazemi also grabbed 11 rebounds to lead all players and tied with Frizzelle for team-high honors with three assists.
This season, Kazemi leads the Owls with 12.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Guard Tamir Jackson stands second on the team with 10.7 points per game, while Dylan Ennis is tops with 3.8 assists per contest.
Head coach Ben Braun is in his 35th year overall and his fourth season at Rice. He has compiled a 601-465 career record and a 49-76 record with the Owls. Braun is 5-5 against the Cougars, including a 3-4 mark against Houston as Rice's head coach.
Braun, a 1975 graduate of Wisconsin, previously served as the head coach at California (1996-08), Eastern Michigan (1986-96) and Siena Heights (1977-85).
SERIES HISTORY vs. RICE
Saturday's game will be the second of two regular-season meetings between the two teams. Rice claimed a 79-71 win in Hofheinz Pavilion on Feb. 8.
This marks the 17th straight season and the 39th time in the last 41 years that the two teams will meet on the hardwood. With the exceptions of the 1996-97 and the 1997-98 seasons, the Cougars have played Rice at least once every year since 1971-72.
The Cougars own a 57-17 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 74 games entering Saturday, this is the second-most played series in Houston history. It trails only the 83 games played against Texas A&M from 1996 to 2004.
Rice has won the last three games against the Cougars, its longest streak since 2004-06.
The Cougars are 23-11 all-time against Rice on the Owls' home court. However, Rice enjoyed a 79-71 win in overtime on Jan. 26, 2011, in the most recent meeting in Tudor Fieldhouse. That loss snapped the Cougars' two-game winning streak on the Rice campus.
The Cougars face No. 8 seed UTEP during First Round competition Wednesday at the Conference USA Championships in FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.
The Cougars will meet the Miners for the third time this season with each team winning on its home floor. Game time will be determined with the completion of the regular season this weekend.