March 2, 2012
After helping lead Rice to its first winning season since 2005, four seniors will play their final game in Tudor Fieldhouse Saturday night when the Owls play host to cross-town rival Houston. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised regionally by CSS as well as broadcasted by 1560 The Game (KGOW).
Saturday's game marks the final home contest for Connor Frizzelle, Emerson Herndon, Lucas Kuipers and Nate Schwarze but is not the end of the group's career. The Owls will play in next week's Conference USA Tournament in Memphis, Tenn., with aspirations of advancing on in postseason play.
Dating back to late January, Rice (17-13, 8-7) has won six of its last nine games including a 68-61 victory at UTEP earlier in the week. Wednesday's win was the Owls' first against the Miners in El Paso since 2003.
Houston, 14-14 and 6-9, has won three of its last four games and heads across town riding a two-game win streak including an 82-53 Senior Night win over Tulane on Wednesday.
Houston had all five of its starters score in double figures Wednesday as the Cougars sent lone senior Darian Thibodeaux off on a winning note. In his final game in Hofheinz Pavilion, Thibodeaux scored 12 points and had a game-high seven assists in the Cougars' win.
In Wednesday's win, UH junior guard Jonathon Simmons scored 23 points (10-for-16 from the field) and had eight rebounds along with five assists.
For the year, Simmons is averaging 15 points to lead Houston. Simmons is shooting 52.9 percent from the field and is third on the team with 29 three-pointers made.
Rice goes for its second straight home-and-home sweep against Houston. It would be only the third Rice sweep in the series which dates back to 1972. Rice has only once won four in a row against UH (last of the four straight wins was the first game of the series as Conference USA opponents).
The Owls swept last year's games and earlier this season rallied from a 13-0 deficit after missing their first 14 shots to beat the Cougars 79-71 in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Earlier this week, Rice junior forward Arsalan Kazemi scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, registering his 43rd career double-double in the Owls' win at UTEP. The performance broke the C-USA career record for double-doubles.
Kazemi is averaging 12.3 points and 10.4 rebounds for the year and his double-double in El Paso gives him 16 for the year which ties for eighth most in Division I basketball. He also ranks 15th in rebounding and 33rd in steals (2.0 spg).
The Owls' 17 wins this season marks the most since the 2004-05 season and the team will be looking to sweep a fourth conference series this season.
After the program combined to win 10 league games in the past four seasons, Rice has equaled its most league wins in a season since joining C-USA (eight).
Rice will finish league play as either the fifth, sixth or seventh seed at next week's conference tournament. The Owls will play East Carolina, SMU or Tulane in the first round of the tournament next Wednesday in the FedEx Forum.
75 Percent Off for No. 75
In addition to Senior Night, Saturday's game against Houston will mark the 75th in the series with the Cougars.
In honor of the milestone contest, chairback seats for the game have been reduced by 75 percent.