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Houston (14-14) at Rice (17-13)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 3, 8:00 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Tudor Fieldhouse (5,208) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CSS. Home Record: Houston 13-5, Rice 11-5. Away Record: Houston 0-8, Rice 6-6. Neutral Record: Houston 1-1, Rice 0-2. Conference Record: Houston 6-9, Rice 8-7. Series Record: Houston leads, 57-17.

GAME NOTES: Cross-town rivals close out the 2011-12 regular season tonight in Houston, when the Cougars travel to Tudor Fieldhouse for a Conference-USA bout with the Rice Owls.

This will be the Cougars' last chance during the regular season to earn a true road victory, as Houston currently owns an 0-8 mark when away from its own friendly confines. Houston enters this meeting on a bit of a roll, with the squad notching victories in three out of its last four games, en route to an even 14-14 overall ledger. The Cougars most recently dispatched of Tulane in an 82-53 final on Wednesday night, to improve to 6-9 in C-USA action.

As for Rice, the Owls rebounded from a tough 58-56 loss at Southern Miss on Feb. 25 with a hard-earned 68-61 verdict at UTEP on Wednesday evening. The Owls have notched victories in two of their last three, and enter this matchup with a 17-13 overall tally that includes an 8-7 mark against league opponents.

Houston owns a comfortable 57-17 lead in terms of the all-time series between the two foes.

The Cougars had five players score in double figures during the 29-point win over Tulane, as the squad shot at a blistering 60.3 percent clip that included a 6-for-15 effort from beyond the arc. Jonathon Simmons registered a game-high 23 points and collected eight rebounds to lead the way for Houston, while TaShawn Thomas notched 13 points to go with nine boards. Joseph Young and Darian Thibodeaux added 12 points apiece as well, while Alandise Harris finished with 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Leon Gibson chipped in seven points from off the bench, and collected a game-high 10 boards. The Cougars held the Green Wave in check to the tune of 32.2 percent from the floor during the meeting, and dominated the battle of the boards by a 41-27 margin as well. The Cougars are shooting at an impressive 46.9 percent clip as a team this season, a mark that includes a 35.8 percent conversion rate from three-point land. The club boasts four players with a double-digit scoring average, with Simmons leading the way courtesy of a 15.0 points per game tally. Joining him in double figures are Harris and Young, who net 12.8 and 11.5 ppg, respectively, while Thomas has been responsible for 10.7 points to go with a team-leading 8.1 rebounds per contest. Houston has not fared as well at the other end of the court, allowing its adversaries to compile 71.6 ppg.

Rice shot just 40.8 percent from the floor against UTEP, but the Owls held the Miners to an even-worse 36.4 percent clip in the seven-point victory. The Owls were primarily paced by a 19-of-22 effort at the foul line over the final 20 minutes, which helped the squad to overcome a slight 29-27 halftime deficit. The Owls were, however, guilty of a game-high 13 giveaways during the meeting, but also ended up on the winning end of the battle of the boards (38-34). Arsalan Kazemi scored 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the way for Rice, while Connor Frizzelle chipped in 12 points of his own. The duo of Jarelle Reischel and Ahmad Ibrahim added 10 points apiece as well for the Owls. Rice owns a respectable 69.5 ppg average, and has also limited the opposition to 65.7 ppg up to this point. The Owls are however, shooting at a somewhat underwhelming 44.2 percent clip as a team, with struggles from both three-point range (34.2 percent) as well as at the foul line (68.0 percent). Currently, the Owls own only a pair of players with a double-digit scoring average, with Kazemi leading the way with 12.3 ppg. Kazemi paces the team on the boards as well (10.4 rpg), while Tamir Jackson checks in at 10.7 ppg.

Give a homecourt advantage to Rice, in what should be a tightly contested affair throughout. The Owls play a bit tighter at the defensive end of the court, which should provide the edge they need to pull out a win here.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 78, Houston 73

03/03 10:43:48 ET