Jan. 8, 2008
HOUSTON - Rice begins a new season of sorts Wednesday as the Owls open Conference USA play against Marshall. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at Reliant Arena.
Rice is 3-10 after an 0-3 road trip last week that saw the Owls play two nationally-ranked opponents - then No. 12 Texas A&M and No. 15 Vanderbilt - as well as a third opponent who is on the cusp of breaking into the Top 25 - Oklahoma.
Marshall has won its last two including a 67-62 overtime win over Winthrop last week as the squad improved to 8-4. Wednesday's game in Houston will be the Thundering Herd's first away from home since an 85-75 loss at Louisville Dec. 18. Marshall played nine of its 12 nonconference games at home in Huntington, W.V.
Junior forward Markel Humphrey averages 15.2 points and 6.3 rebounds, is shooting 49 percent from the floor and is fourth on the squad with 22 assists. True freshman forward Tirrell Baines is averaging 13.8 points and a team-leading 6.6 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field. Humphrey and Baines have started all 12 games for the Thundering Herd this season.
Rice opens Conference USA play at home for the third straight year and will be looking to extend its winning streak in league openers. The Owls have won their last five conference openers spanning the program's last three years in the Western Athletic Conference.
Senior forward Paulius Packevicius is a rebound shy of averaging a double-double for the year. Packevicius is coming off his sixth double-double of the season at Oklahoma and is averaging 10.5 points and 9.9 boards.
Patrick Britton was held to just 14 points over the Owls' three-game road swing last week but still is averaging 9.8 points along with 5.2 rebounds.
Rice continues to have just nine players available - seven student-athletes on basketball scholarships and a pair of football players who joined the program in December.
One of the football-playing tandem, freshman Pierre Beasley, played 28 minutes in the Owls' game at Oklahoma last week. He scored four points to go along with a career-high seven rebounds and six steals.
Marshall and Rice have split their first two meetings as members of Conference. The contests stand as the only two games in the series between the two teams. The two squads will play for the first time in Houston on Wednesday as the first two games of the series were both played in Huntington.
After opening C-USA play at home, Rice travels to UTEP for a Saturday afternoon game which will be the second of four the Owls will play on CSTV. Tip-off is set for 3:00 p.m. CST. Rice is back at home next Wednesday when the Owls play host to No. 2 Memphis at Reliant Arena.