March 12, 2013
TULSA, Okla. - Rice University men's basketball earned the 11th seed in this week's Conference USA Championship and opens play on Wednesday in the rubber match against crosstown rival Houston. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Tulsa's BOK Center.
Wednesday's opening round games will be available online through the C-USA Digital Network. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be televised nationally on CBSSN and Saturday's championship contest will be broadcast on CBS.
Each team held court against the other at home this season, including Rice's 79-69 triumph over the Cougars on Jan. 30. Houston earned its revenge last week on Senior Night with an 84-62 win.
The Owls (5-25) feature possibly the hottest player in Conference USA down the stretch in Tamir Jackson. The senior notched a career-high 30 points against Tulsa in the regular season finale on Saturday. The guard has recorded 20 or more points in five of the last six contests, averaging 22.5 points per game over the stretch.
Max Guercy was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team on the eve of the tournament after posting arguably the best regular season of any rookie in the league.
Scouting the First Round
Houston (18-11) topped Tulane in a 96-94 thriller to secure the sixth seed for the Conference USA Championship. It was the third-straight win for the Cougars, who continue to lead the league in scoring at 78.6 points per game and rebounds, with 38.4. Houston stands second with a 37.4 three-point percentage.
The one-two scoring combo of third team all-conference selection Joseph Young (18.5 ppg) and first-teamer and all-defensive squad member TaShawn Thomas (16.9) is the most potent for a pair of teammates in C-USA this season.
Forward Danuel House was selected as the league's Freshman of the Year after posting a solid season for the Cougars.
Houston posted a solid 12-2 start to the season before cooling off to end the regular season on a 6-9 run.
The Cougars fell to UTEP, 67-62 in overtime, in last year's opening round of the tournament as the ninth seed.
Scouting the Quarterfinal
UTEP (17-13) won three of its last four games to claim the Conference USA Championship third seed, including a pair of road wins at Rice and SMU.
The Miners are 0-3 in neutral site games this season after going winless in November's Old Spice Classic in Orlando. UTEP is the top defensive team in the league in terms of scoring, as opponents average just 60.5 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting.
Julian Washburn scores 12.0 points per game to lead the balanced attack. John Bohannon and Konner Tucker also average double figures.
The eighth-seeded Miners topped Houston in the opening round of the C-USA Tournament before falling to eventual champion Memphis, 65-47, in the quarterfinal.
Men's Basketball Splits Series With Houston
Rice University men's basketball cut a 19-point deficit down to nine in the second half, but Houston regained its momentum to put away the Owls, 84-62, on Wednesday night in Hofheinz Pavilion. Senior Tamir Jackson did all he could to keep Rice in the game as he led the team with 25 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Rice has an overall 16-31 record in postseason conference tournaments. The record includes an 8-18 mark as a member of the Southwest Conference (1953-1996), a 4-6 record during a stint in the WAC (1997-2005) and a 4-7 record in the Conference USA Tournament (2006-pres.).
Last season, the Owls advanced to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament quarterfinal round with a pair of wins against Louisiana-Lafayette and Drake.
Previously, Rice had last played in a national postseason tournament in 2005 when the Owls competed in the National Invitation Tournament. The Owls dropped a 105-82 decision to Missouri State in the opening round. Rice last played in the NCAA Tournament in 1970.