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Men's basketball drops to 0-4 in Conference USA

By Dan Elledge     1/20/14 6:00pm

The Rice University men's basketball team did not secure its first conference victory of the season, falling 84-62 to the University of Southern Mississippi on Jan. 16 and 58-41 to Tulane University on Jan. 18. With the losses, the Owls fell to 5-12 overall and 0-4 in Conference USA play. Rice will return to Tudor Fieldhouse this weekend to host Marshall University on Jan. 23 and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte on Jan. 25.

Head Coach Ben Braun said he was encouraged by the defense's performance at times, but the shooting has to be better. He said everyone was missing shots against Tulane.

"I thought defensively we did good stuff in both games, but we missed some shots," Braun said. "We had some open looks and did not knock them down. Sometimes, it snowballs a little bit when you miss a couple of shots. That starts to weigh on you a little bit. Shooting can be contagious."

Even with the problems on offense, Braun said defense will continue to be the main focus in practice. Braun said he expects the offense will come around, but it will be the defensive stops that will help Rice win games.

"[On defense], we need to be more consistent from the first half to the second half," Braun said. "It's important for us to keep up that defensive consistency to take some pressure off of the offense."

Sophomore point guard Max Guercy said even after the 41-point output against Tulane, the Owls are still more worried about their presence on the defensive end. Guercy said that eventually, the team will start to convert and hit some open shots.

"The coaches wanted to make sure we were better defensively, and the offense will take care of itself," Guercy said. "Once we get our groove back, we will be OK."

Senior guard Austin Ramljak said the team is constantly running drills in practice to improve its defensive aggressiveness. Ramljak said the drills have been both individually and team-focused.

"We have done a lot of competitive stuff," Ramljak said. "We have been running for loose balls. In addition to that, if your team gets a certain amount of stops, you can get off the court and rest. We played a game of five on five with an emphasis on defense."

The Owls face Marshall on Thursday and Charlotte on Saturday. The Thundering Herd is currently 6-13 overall and 0-4 in conference play, while the 49ers are 12-5 overall and 3-1 in 


conference play.Last season, the Owls barely missed recording their only road win of the season against the Thundering Herd, losing 71-70. Charlotte is new to C-USA this season, so the Owls did not play the 49ers last year.

Braun said being back at home will provide some inspiration for his players, but they cannot rely on the home crowd to win. He said the emphasis has to be on consistency from both ends of the floor.

"They are both very athletic teams and will both be a major challenge for us, but we are glad to be back home," Braun said. "We had two games at home two weeks ago that we could have won, so we will take that experience forward and know that being at home is not a magic potion. It does not ensure us of anything."

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