Less than two weeks removed from an outing in which the Rice men's basketball team scored 54 points in a single half, the Owls (519, 1-9) were unable to match such offensive output in a frustrating conference defeat. Hosting the Southern Methodist University Mustangs (13-12, 3-7) last Saturday, Rice had its worst shooting day of the season in a 61-39 defeat at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Owls came out with a game plan to attack offensively from the perimeter, converting on four out of 13 attempts from behind the 3-point line in the first half. But Rice simply could not produce any offense from inside the arc, scoring just two points in the paint over the first 20 minutes against SMU. Led by legendary NCAA and NBA Head Coach Larry Brown, the Mustangs took a 26-17 lead at the half. Sophomore guard Julian DeBose and senior guard Tamir Jackson each reached double digits in scoring for Rice, but the Owls struggled all day from the field and were unable to bring the deficit within single digits in the second half. The team shot just 19.6 percent (10 for 51) from the field for the game, falling at home on an offense-deprived evening.Head Coach Ben Braun's squad was much more competitive on the road Wednesday when it traveled to take on Marshall University (11-14, 4-6) for another league tilt. The Owls and Thundering Herd played to a 33-33 tie at halftime, and Jackson and junior guard Austin Ramljak combined for 22 points in the first half. Rice took the lead late in an incredibly close second half when freshman forward Ross Wilson's layup with 3:53 remaining made it a 61-60 game. But after Marshall scored four straight points from the line, Jackson was forced out of the game with an eye injury in the closing minutes. Freshman guard Keith Washington entered the game and scored layups on back-to-back possessions, but Marshall responded with a corner 3 and iced the game with free throws while Jackson made his way back into the game. The resilient Owls, shorthanded with sophomore forward Seth Gearhart out due to injury, battled all night on the road but fell by a one-point margin 71-70 for their fourth straight loss.Milestone Watch: Amid what has been a tumultuous senior season, Jackson continues to put his finishing touches on what has simply been one of the best careers in the history of the men's basketball program. Jackson became just the ninth player in program history to surpass the 1,500-point mark Saturday and currently stands eighth on the career scoring list after going for 16 at Marshall. Jackson also now ranks fourth all time in career assists and fifth in career steals after this week's games. With six regular season games left, Jackson has the opportunity to finish at least second all time in games played in a career, depending on how far the Owls can advance in the Conference USA tournament. Lastly, Jackson currently stands second all time in minutes played and is on pace to pass Dana Hardy ('89'92) for the career record, 3,397 minutes, if he stays healthy for the rest of the season.
With only one game this weekend, the Rice Owls had a lot of time to prepare for the arrival of the University of Houston Cougars to Tudor Fieldhouse this past Sunday. Coming off their first win in quite a while, the Owls were hoping to use their victory against the University of Alabama, Birmingham, as a stepping stone to leave the basement of the conference standings. Unfortunately, the Cougars had other plans.
After an upset win over crosstown rival University of Houston Cougars, the Rice Owls men's basketball team took the court last Saturday looking to start a winning streak in conference play as they played host to East Carolina University.The Owls (5-17, 1-7) and Pirates (13-8, 4-4) exchanged the lead five times in the game's opening minutes, with the visitors controlling the offensive glass but Rice staying in the game by forcing turnovers early on. The hosts took the biggest lead of the half when freshman guard Keith Washington's jump shot with 10:24 remaining put Rice up by an early 18-14 ledger. The Owls held onto a slim lead into the final minutes of a low-scoring half in which the teams went a combined three for 16 from 3-point distance. A mini 6-1 run to close out the half gave ECU a slim 29-26 lead at intermission, with Head Coach Ben Braun's club utilizing onthe-ball pressure to force turnovers and keep the game close.But in spite of some scrappy play from Rice in the opening 20 minutes, the Pirates came out on a quick run in the second half that proved insurmountable for the undersized Owls. After a bucket by senior guard Tamir Jackson opened scoring after the break, ECU went on a 12-0 run in which it forced three turnovers and made six of eight shots from the field. A layup by sophomore guard Julian DeBose stopped the bleeding for the Owls, making it a 41-30 game, but the Pirates continued to get the ball inside for easy looks at the basket throughout the rest of the half. The deficit for Rice swelled to as much as 25 in the closing minutes, and the guests cruised to a 79-63 win over the Owls at Tudor Fieldhouse. Jackson led Rice with 19 points and nine rebounds in the defeat.In the second half of their win over the Owls, ECU shot 15 for 21 (71.4 percent) from the field and made 27 trips to the free-throw line, consistently getting good looks at the basket by running its offense through the low post. With the exception of Rice's thrilling win last week against Houston, Rice opponents have often outplayed the Owls in the second half of games this season by utilizing a very familiar blueprint. On average, Rice is allowing just 36.4 points per first half this season, but a disappointing 43.9 points per second half. The reason opponents have been able to improve their scoring numbers against the Owls late in games is due in part to their increased offensive efficiency after the intermission. Teams are shooting 51.3 percent from the field against Rice in the second half of games this year, compared to just 45.9 percent in the first half. As ECU did on Saturday, teams playing Rice have displayed more of a commitment to getting the ball down low later in games, leading to better looks at the hoop and more efficient offensive possessions. This is further evidenced by the number of 3-point attempts per half. Rice's opponents are taking nearly three deep balls less per second half than they are per first half this year.After splitting the brief homestand, the Owls traveled to El Paso on Wednesday to take on the University of Texas, El Paso, for the first time this season. But Rice was never able to overcome a quick start from the Miners (13-8, 6-2), who led 18-8 in the opening minutes and took a 14-point lead into the half. The Owls clawed back late in the game, as a Washington deep ball brought Rice to within eight with 7:19 remaining. But UTEP quickly responded with a 3-pointer of its own, which sparked a 12-4 run to put the game out of reach. Jackson led Rice with 12 points on the evening, but the Owls fell on the road by a final score of 65-53. Freshman guard Max Guercy added 11 points in the defeat after he was named the C-USA Freshman of the Week for the second week in a row and the third time this season.The team takes on Southern Methodist University tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse before traveling to Marshall for another conference tilt Wednesday.
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.
Dear Coach Bailiff,
For the third time in 50 years, the Rice University Owls will be traveling to a bowl game. After a big away win against the University of Texas at El Paso this past weekend, the Owls met the six-win requirement to go bowling - capping the improbable four-game winning streak needed for postseason play.
The Conference USA volleyball tournament, the first of its kind since 2009, returns today in Tulsa, and with it, volleyball rejoins basketball, baseball and soccer as sports that determine the conference's automatic NCAA berth through a tournament. And though this tradition may seem strange, it had become so ubiquitous that it felt even stranger when volleyball did not follow it.
When the Rice University men's basketball team's 2011-12 season came to an end last March with a loss to Oakland University in the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, there was a sense of optimism surrounding the program and its core that combined veteran experience, youth and energy. But during the seven-month-long basketball offseason, disappointment grew when six players decided to leave the the program.
I am still not completely sure how I feel about the events surrounding the cancellation of last weekend's New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with one key exception - there are lessons to be learned. In the midst of the destruction and tragedy, whether or not to hold the annual marathon became a source of heated controversy. The arguments and analysis ranged from pragmatic to emotional. Supporters of holding the event saw it as a way to show the city's resilience, to attract media attention and donations, to act as an economic boom and to give weary residents a welcome distraction. Those against holding the marathon viewed it as an affront to those still suffering from the destruction and a waste of resources at a time when millions were still out of power and areas of the city were still reeling from fatal flooding. On the Wednesday after the storm, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Road Runners President Mary Wittenberg announced the race would go on as planned on the previously planned route. But just two days later, the event was canceled, citing the divisiveness it had caused. Finally, on Sunday, thousands of runners gathered, organized by spontaneous Facebook groups or parties who had travelled together, and ran their own unofficial marathons, lapping intermittently around Central Park. These events lend themselves to a myriad of angles about the role of sports during tragedy, both at an individual level and a societal one. However, I would like to focus on one lesson in particular that can prove especially relevant for collegiate athletic programs. It is worth exploring why the marathon became such a lightning rod while other events, including New York Giants and New York Knicks games, went on with little fanfare. Part of it probably had to do with timing. Because of the number of out-of-towners who fly in to participate or spectate, the organizers were forced to make a decision much earlier in the week while the shock of the hurricane was still in effect. The geography of the events also likely played a role. Unlike the sequestered NBA or NFL venues, the marathon winds through the entire city, entering all five boroughs and starting in heavy-hit Staten Island.But I believe the framing of the issue also had a real effect on the public reaction. With a small, nuanced change in rhetoric, the reception may have been different. Before the decision of whether or not to race was made, Wittenberg talked not about what the marathon could do for the city, but what it would do. It is a slight difference, but a crucial one. "I've always said the marathon is much more than a race - and once again, it has never seemed more true than this year as was the case after 9/11. Our focus is to deliver an event that can aid in New York's recovery," Wittenberg said at a press conference. "To us, the marathon really epitomizes the spirit of New York City, the vitality, the tenacity, the determination of New Yorkers, and now, our every effort is to once again tell the world that New York City, as the mayor would say, is open for business, and we welcome the support of the world at this trying time."Wittenberg's statement articulates many of the ideals related to how important sport can be in a trying time. However, the sense of presumption that the race would undoubtedly go on undermined her effectiveness. In fact, the statement above would have been almost perfect had the decision to race already been made. If she would have instead framed her argument slightly differently, the impact may have also changed. Imagine if she had instead started with something to this effect:"Our first priority is to do what is best for the city of New York and its citizens. We believe the New York Marathon can be and is more than just a race ... but only so long as its running in no way compromises the rescue and recovery efforts."The intent and sentiments are identical, but the framing makes all the difference. I am writing this not to criticize Wittenberg, who has done amazing things to advance the New York Marathon and distance running more generally, but because I believe there is a lesson here for collegiate athletics.At some point, collegiate athletics programs will face their crisis. It may be at an institutional level or at an NCAA level. It may be financial, or reputational, or tied to an unforeseen event. But when that crisis occurs, the programs that will be most successful will be those that remember and successfully communicate the fact that at their core, they exist to serve their university and its students. Athletic programs do have an incredible breadth of offerings that make universities better places, but they can be jeopardized in a time of crisis if programs have moved away from the fundamental notion of serving their university.
On Oct. 29, the men's cross country team found itself on the starting line of the Conference-USA Championship in Hattiesburg, Miss. The team coached by Head Coach John Warren raced in an eight-kilometer event hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Rice women's cross country team took its talents to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Oct. 29 to compete in the 2012 Conference USA Cross Country Championships, hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi. Last year, the women finished in third place behind Southern Methodist University and the University of Tulsa. This year, the women found themselves finishing in a tie for fourth place with University of Alabama at Birmingham. They finished behind SMU, Tulsa and East Carolina University.
With a potential conference co-championship on the line, the Rice University Owls did not disappoint, winning 1-0 against in-city rivals University of Houston. The Owls were victorious due to the great defense of sophomore goalkeeper Amy Czyz and the penalty kick by captain Lauren LaGro. LaGro, a senior, did not miss in the most consequential minute of play and scored the decisive championship goal. With the win, the Owls ended the night and the regular season as Conference USA co-champions alongside Colorado College. At the end of the season, the Owls had an 11-6-3 record, including an 8-2-1 conference record. While the Owls were able to celebrate their glory for a short while, there was a quick turnaround in their schedule: the C-USA Championship Tournament.Before the tournament even began, C-USA released its all-conference honors for the year. Four Owls made the cut. Freshman forward Holly Hargreaves, who has had an impressive season this year, received the honor of C-USA Freshman of the Year. Hargreaves is the first to receive the honor in Owls soccer history. Hargreaves also received two other honorable distinctions. She was selected to the all-freshman team along with teammate Lauren Hughes, and Hargreaves was also named a member of the all-conference first team along with sophomore midfielder Quinney Troung. The Owls also posted two members, Hughes and LaGro, on the all-conference second team. These recognitions to the all-conference teams are equal in number to those of conference rival and nationally ranked University of Central Florida, emphasizing just how great a season the Owls have had.With the loss to Colorado College two weeks ago, the Owls were relegated to the No. 2 overall seed heading into the tournament. This was definitely a surprise for many in C-USA, as the Owls were projected to finish sixth in the conference during preseason rankings. Heading into the tournament, Head Coach Nikki Adams was cognizant of the work still ahead."The tournament's tough," Adams said. "SMU has always been a rivalry with Rice. We expect the best coming from them."The Owls began their tournament play on Oct. 31 with a loss against the Southern Methodist University Mustangs, 3-1. Hagreaves scored the lone goal for the Owls, her tenth of the year. With the loss, the Owls have been eliminated from the tournament. With the tournament behind them, the Owls must wait to see if they receive an at-large bid invite to the NCAA tournament next week. Until then, we can assess the success that the team has had this year. The Owls, as mentioned before, defied all expectations of everyone in the conference. They were projected to finish sixth in the conference, but ended the season with a co-championship.The future looks even brighter for the program, especially with Hughes and Hargeaves having a lot more soccer to play for the Owls. If their freshman season was this good with many records broken, imagine what the 2013 season has in store for the women's soccer. Add to the fact that the whole team for the most part was young this year, one more year of play together has them primed hopefully to repeat as C-USA champions.
There is definitely something magical about Rice Stadium for the Owls: Something different seems to happen when the team is at home. The offense seems more efficient, the defense hits harder - and all of this results in more wins on the field.In their four home games this year, the Owls have played noticeably better than on the road, beating and competitively playing some teams that logic says they would not. But, on the flip side, the team has struggled mightily on the road, with its win against a one-win University of Kansas team as their only victory. A loss against University of Memphis on the road is one of the largest blemishes so far this season.This weekend, the Owls lived up to their reputation at Rice Stadium, rolling over the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Hurricanes, the defending Conference USA champions. The game was an absolute rout, with Rice clicking on all cylinders."I'm really proud of this football team," Rice Head Coach David Bailiff said. "Proud of how we started the game, and really proud of how we started the second half. I thought the defense today, with five forced turnovers, was where the separation really started h appending in the second half. When you looked up on the scoreboard, we had 17 second-half points." By halftime, the score was 21-10. The Owls finished 44-17 and their biggest win of the season. Turner Petersen, a junior running back, led the way for the Owls without an impressive 136 rushing yards. He had a rushing and a receiving touchdown, helping stoke the offense for Rice. Petersen ended without an average of over seven yards per carry. Both Rice quarterbacks contributed, with junior Taylor McHargue going 7-12 80 yards and a touchdown before being slammed to the ground on a nasty horse collar. Freshman backup Driphus Jackson entered the game, contributing 92 yards and two touchdowns."I was so proud, offensively, of Driphus Jackson, who came in and played early and then finished the game," Bailiff. "McHargue could have come back in, but we opted to keep out with the score being where it was."The Rice defense was ferocious, allowing only 116 rushing yards out of a good rushing team. Gabe Baker, a sophomore starting in only his second game, led the way with nine total tackles. Red shirt juniors Cody Bauer and Hosam Shahin and red shirt senior Jared Williams all contributed two tackles for losses."I think defensively as a whole, we worked better each week," safety Paul Porras said. "With Tulsa, they ran the ball, and with Southern Miss, they tried to air the ball out a little more. I think it's really preparing us to go against [Tulane University]. They have a very pass-oriented offense, and our defensive backs are going to be ready." Tulane, the Owls' opponent this week, presents a decent passing offense but is one of the worst teams inside C-USA. With only two wins on the season, Tulane could be an easy Owls victory - if Rice shows up to play on the road.The Green wave has a decent passing offense, averaging over 250 yards per game, but has struggled both on the run and defensively. Tulane seems to handle every position, with a large number of quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers all getting touches on the ball.The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where Tulane plays, has a rough atmosphere. Not necessarily because Tulane fans pack the stadium, but because the NFL-sized dome presents an atmosphere in which most college teams are not used to playing.If Rice can adjust to the challenging dome environment, this is a very winnable game. With a 6-6 record needed to be eligible for a bowl, the Owls need to win their next three games to have a possibility of playing December football. The big problem is that two of those games come on the road. Surely, it has snuck into at least a few of the players' minds that a bowl appearance, which would be the first since 2008, is still on the table if t he team can just win. After the Southern Miss game, McHargue was feeling optimistic about the team's chances. "Great team win," McHargue tweeted. "No reason why we can't rip [three] more off and make a bowl!"