Two days after ending a three-game losing streak Rice basketball looks to even their conference record at .500 with a win over UAB on Saturday.
Rice entered conference play with a 5-8 record. The Owls had put together some strong performances, but the consistency was lacking. They needed time to regroup and refocus. It’s almost as if a different team showed up after the holiday break. Their win over Middle Tennesse puts them one win away from returning to the middle of the pack in Conference USA.
To get back to .500 Rice will have to dispatch a UAB squad which has won three straight games, all against opponents who beat the Owls this season. Barring additional sets of unforeseen circumstances, the team will be ready for the Blazers on Saturday. A win would give Rice a tw0-game winning streak, their second of the season.
UAB 13-7 (5-2), Last 5 (3-2)
- W, 52-49 @ North Texas
- W, 83-73 vs UTSA
- W, 76-63 vs UTEP
- L, 73-68 @ Southern Miss
- L, 64-53 @ Louisiana Tech
Rice 8-12 (3-4), Last 5 – (2-3)
- W, 79-68 vs MTSU
- L, 76-75 vs North Texas
- L, 65-64 @ UTEP
- L, 95-79 @ UTSA
- W, 78-66 vs Louisiana Tech
UAB players to watch
For most of the year, UAB has won basketball games with a suffocating defense. The Blazers rank fourth in CUSA with 65.8 points allowed per game and second in field goal percentage allowed, 40.1 percent. It’s been a complete team effort, sort of how the offense has gone for UAB, too.
Rice will have to keep their focus on the combination of Zach Bryant, Jalen Perry and Lewis Sullivan. The trio leads UAB in minutes played and seem to alternate on the night which of the three will have a big game. Most recently it was Bryant, who knocked down 6-of-13 from the field for 17 points, tied for his most productive shooting night in conference play.
Rice keys to victory
Play all 40 minutes of Saturday’s tilt with UAB with the same intensity of the final eight minutes against Middle Tennessee. After the second to last scheduled media time out the Owls outscored their opponents by 12, seizing control late in the game.
Rice shot 70 percent from the field after the timeout. Middle Tennessee shot 33 percent. A strong defensive performance from the Owls was just as important as their made shots down the stretch. This team has proven when both sides of the ball are operating well, they can beat anyone on their schedule.