Nov. 15, 2009
Houston Baptist vs Rice Game Book
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
One glance at the field goal percentage and the rebound disparity revealed how much Rice had left in the tank as it fought through its third game in three days on Sunday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Similarly, the Owls' defensive intensity and proficiency at the charity stripe spoke to their determination even while strained by fatigue. The offense didn't click, but the Owls' commitment to hard work paved the way for a 60-46 victory over Houston Baptist, a clean sweep at the Rice Basketball Challenge, and their first 3-0 start since the 2004-05 season.
The Owls (3-0) limited the Huskies to 31.4 percent shooting and forced 22 turnovers that they converted into 20 points. After missing 14 free throws over their first two games, the Owls finished 21-for-25 at the line against HBU, an effort that offset their own 31.0 percent shooting.
"I knew the legs would be a little bit tired, but everybody's legs were tired. I don't think anybody shot the ball particularly well today," Rice coach Ben Braun said. "By the end of the year guys can play three games (in three days), but now it's a little tougher. But we got a lot out of it."
Both teams slogged their way through the opening half until the Owls closed the frame with a 19-2 run that snapped a 16-all deadlock and produced a 35-18 halftime lead. Tournament MVP Connor Frizzelle contributed a jumper and a deep 3-pointer during the stretch, but by and large the Owls created their working margin at the free-throw line.
The Owls shot 10-for-10 from the line to seize momentum. Defensively they clamped down and allowed just seven baskets prior to halftime, with HBU forward Andrew Gonzales shooting 4-for-7. Even as they labored to do the little things right on offense, the Owls' focus didn't wane on defense or at the line, a surprise given the circumstances.
"Coach (Louis) Reynaud harps on free-throw shooting every day in practice," Owls junior forward Suleiman Braimoh said. "He tells us to concentrate, and after three-hour practices we run sprints and then get on the line to get out of practice. That definitely helps us out a lot."
Added Frizzelle: "To know that we can rely on the defense is something we can look to in the future if we're having a bad offensive game. I'm proud of the guys because even though we were tired we came out with three wins and got the championship. It was a nice little challenge."
The Owls opened the 2004-05 season 6-0 en route to a 19-12 finish. They haven't posted a winning record since, and while stiff challenges remain on the non-conference schedule, starting with Thursday's showdown at Arizona, the Owls got off to the start that they longed for.
"It revealed what I hope that we have all season, which is that camaraderie and that fight," Braimoh said of the Owls' successful weekend. "One thing you can look at with this 3-0 start is not so much that we won three games, but you look at how we won three games."
Braimoh and Tamir Jackson, who was named to the all-tournament team, paced the Owls with 10 points apiece. Rice got 24 points off its bench, which had four Owls record double-digit minutes - Trey Stanton (21), Arsalan Kazemi (16), A.J. Holland (14) and Bryan Beasley (13).