Men's basketball perseveres
The Rice men's basketball team, after fading late against the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns in a 57-41 defeat Dec. 29, traveled northeast last Saturday to play Harvard University in Rice's final game before opening its Conference USA schedule on Wednesday. But from the outset, the Owls (3-11) had no answer for their hot-shooting hosts as the Crimson (8-5) jumped out to a 43-21 halftime lead on 63 percent shooting from the field. Harvard hit as many 3-pointers in the first half as Rice had total baskets and Rice fell behind early in spite of a career-high 19 points from freshman guard Max Guercy, who was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week for his efforts. The Owls lost 92-62, falling to 3-10 in their most lopsided defeat of the season.
The team shifted its focus to Conference USA foes on Wednesday night, hosting the University of Southern Mississippi in the 2012-13 league opener at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Golden Eagles (11-4) entered the game coming off of a record-setting performance against Dillard University in their non-conference finale. Southern Miss defeated the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics foe 135-41, setting Conference USA records for points, field goals made (51), assists (40) and steals (27) in a single game. And just four days removed from its headline-grabbing win, Southern Miss overmatched Rice with its superior size and athleticism, as the Owls fell 75-52. The Owls shot just 28 percent from the field in the first half and struggled to hit shots against their opponent's 2-3 defensive zone. Rice improved its offensive effort in the second half, but Southern Miss utilized its height advantage to get easy looks in the post throughout the game. The Golden Eagles outscored Rice 46-20 in the paint, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field for the game.
"We've got to show more resistance on the defensive end," Braun said. "I thought our interior defense was poor. It wasn't the outside shot that was hurting us. It was getting the ball to the rim. We've got to show some resistance in there."
Senior guard Tamir Jackson led the Owls with 13 points and six rebounds in the losing effort.
Entering Wednesday's games, Jackson ranked fifth in the league with 17.2 points per game and 11th in the conference at nearly seven rebounds per game.
The Owls will play their second conference game of the season tomorrow evening in Oklahoma, where they will try to take down the University of Tulsa for the first time since 2005. The Golden Hurricane (9-7) has eliminated Braun's team in three of the past four conference tournaments, a streak the Owls will look to avenge with a win on the road tomorrow. Tulsa lost at Marshall University on Wednesday night to bring their league record to 1-1 after they escaped with a 48-47 win at Southern Methodist University last Saturday. Rice will be back at Tudor Fieldhouse at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to take on the league favorites, a University of Memphis team the Owls defeated in their last trip to Houston back in 2011.
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On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.