March 13, 2012
Rice returns to postseason play for the first time since 2005 as the Owls take on Louisiana-Lafayette Wednesday in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Tip-off is slated for 7:05 p.m. in the Cajundome.
Both schools will look to extend their seasons following early exits from conference tournaments. The winner advances on the CIT's second round this weekend and will play an opponent determined by first-round results.
Rice, 17-15 on the year, is 1-3 over its last four games but the Owls' three losses were decided by a combined five points.
In its last game, Rice dropped a 68-66 decision to East Carolina in the first round of the Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship last week. Prior to that, Houston handed the Owls a 76-75 loss on Senior Night and in late February two free throws with 0.6 seconds to play lifted Southern Miss to a 58-56 win over Rice.
In recent weeks however, Rice knocked off UTEP on the road 68-61, the first time the Owls had won in El Paso since 2003, and the squad also had an 83-74 win over a UCF team which has won 20 games this season.
The Owls head to Louisiana with confidence playing on the road. The team equaled its most road wins (six) and most conference road wins (four) since the 2003-04 season. The Owls' success away from Tudor Fieldhouse includes a 65-58 victory at Texas A&M. The Rice win snapped the Aggies' 67-game nonconference home winning streak which dated back to the 2005-06 season.
A win on Wednesday will likely come down to the same two factors most of the Owls' success this season can be attributed to - defense and rebounding.
Rice is 15-0 when outrebounding opponents this season.
Louisiana-Lafayette has outrebounded its opponents by a +3.0 margin.
The Ragin' Cajuns, who enter Wednesday's game with a 16-15 record, are led by one of the nation's premier shot blockers, junior center Kaddem Coleby. Coleby, a 6-9, 250-pound transfer who played at Odessa College and Daytona State, has blocked 72 shots on the year. He is also averaging 9.6 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Senior guard Josh Brown is Louisiana-Lafayette's leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.
At the end of the regular season junior guard Raymone Andrews and sophomore forward J.J. Thomas were suspended from the Louisiana-Lafayette squad indefinitely and since then have received their releases. Andrews started 28 games this season while Thomas averaged 8.6 points per game, fourth on the team.
Wednesday's game will now pit two freshmen point guards against one another.
Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton has started 10 games this season including the Cajuns' last two. His 93 assists on the year leads the team. Along with 13 points, Payton had nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals in the Cajuns' 65-62 loss to North Texas at the Sun Belt Conference Championship last week.
Rice's Dylan Ennis was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team and has already set a Rice rookie record with 131 assists. Heading into the CIT, Ennis is averaging eight points and 4.2 rebounds (second-most on the team).
Freshmen Ahmad Ibrahim and Dan Peera both have academic obligations this week which will prevent them from traveling to Louisiana for Wednesday's game. Both players will be available for future rounds of the CIT should the Owls advance.
Traveling to Lafayette
Tickets for Wednesday's game can be purchased online at RaginCajuns.com.
Ticket prices for the contest are $20 for courtside seats, $15 for first and second level seats between the baselines and $10 for second level seats in the endzone and all third level seats. Student tickets are $5.
Following the Game
Wednesday's game will be broadcast by 1560 The Game (KGOW) with David Saltzman calling the action. Fans may also follow the audio feed through RiceOwls.com.
The game will also be streamed free of charge by the CIT. A link is available at the top of this story.