Nov. 13, 2009
Sacramento State vs. Rice Game Book
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
When the sharpshooters are so numerous, able and willing, the temptation facing Rice is to keep firing 3-pointers at will, even when those attempts appear too frequent and offensive balance seems lost.
No worries. When the Owls need to work inside, they can do that too.
After half of their first-half attempts came from behind the arc, the Owls attacked the paint to regain control of a game they initially seized with their brilliant shooting. By the close of their 81-51 win over Sacramento State on Friday night at Tudor Fieldhouse, balance had been restored.
Forwards Lucas Kuipers (12 points, eight rebounds), Suleiman Braimoh (10 points, seven rebounds) and Arsalan Kazemi (10 points, four rebounds) scored with impunity inside while Connor Frizzelle (a game-high 18 points) sank four of the Owls' 11 3-pointers in the nightcap of the opening day of the Rice Basketball Challenge. Rice (1-0) made 47.8 percent of its treys while outscoring the Hornets 24-18 in the paint.
"Coach (Ben) Braun harps that we've got to play inside out on both defense and offense," said Braimoh, who finished 5-for-5 from the floor. "On defense you protect the paint; on offense when you get open and score inside that forces the help inside, and that's going to open up (the floor) for the shooters. And then it becomes a Catch-22, like pick your poison."
The Owls shot 6-for-15 from behind and in front of the arc before the intermission, a curious statistic revealing their willingness to shoot the 3-ball. But the Owls opened the second stanza with shots at the rim from Braimoh and Kuipers before Frizzelle snuck in the lane for a short jumper. Cliff Ghoram took - and converted - the first 3 of the final half, bumping the lead to 43-26 with 16:07 remaining and igniting the rout.
"Our post guys are capable of that," Braun said. "In the second half Trey (Stanton), Arsalan and Emerson (Herndon) did the same thing (as Braimoh). That's how we're going to have to play. Our post guys are going to have to be aggressive, physical, and they've got to get down there and want the ball. If they're being denied the ball because they're working so hard and sucking the wings in, then we're going to get some good looks."
Those open shots came early as Frizzelle and Tamir Jackson combined for a trio of 3s in the first four minutes. Paired with a swarming defense, the Owls opened a 13-0 lead and didn't surrender a basket until Domineek Daniel stroked a fade-away jumper at the 8:21 mark of the first half. By that point the Owls were struggling with focus and ball handling, turning the ball over 11 times before the intermission while allowing the Hornets to slowly creep their way back into the contest.
But Herndon drilled a baseline jumper as the half drew to a close to extend the lead back to a dozen at 34-22, and Braimoh led the Owls' methodical extension of their advantage, an attack that got a boost when Kazemi began charging into the teeth of the Hornets' defense. Kazemi made just 2-of-5 shot attempts, but he was a perfect 6-for-6 at the line, an effort emblematic of the Owls' desire to score by multiple means.
"Coach told us that we had to be patient," Kuipers said. "Our shots in the first half weren't bad shots, but they were early in the shot clock and the (Hornets) were coming right down and hitting some transition points.
"They were trying to pressure us outside, so when we threw it inside the pressure went away. It just makes sense to put it in there, and our big guys are going to score when they're getting one-on-one (defense) on the block. I don't think we're going to stop shooting (from the perimeter), but we're going to throw it in there when they're open."