It’s been an up and down start to the Rice basketball season. Moe on the good, the bad and the path forward for the Owls this season.
Rice basketball has secured a winning record in nonconference play for the first time in the Scott Pera era. In Pera’s first year, the Owls were 3-10 prior to C-USA action. Last season they improved to 5-8. At the end of 2019, Rice is 8-5 with conference play set to start on Thursday.
The emergence of Trey Murphy has been an important development for this team. He missed the Bahamas Showcase with an injury suffered during the Houston game but has since returned to form. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game.
Ako Adams is keeping a clean handle on the ball and distributing well, opening up opportunities for guys like Robert Martin and Drew Peterson, who’s on pace to have the best season of his young career.
Freshman Max Fiedler, Zach Crisler and Quincy Olivari have become core pieces of the rotation. Fielder is third on the team with 51 rebounds and Crisler is shooting a cool .529 from the field.
Room for improvement
It hasn’t been all roses. In fact, it’s been more of a roller coaster than expected. A 4-1 start and a 2-for-3 showing in the Island of Bahamas Showcase were the high points. A narrow loss to Houston at home and a gutpunch defeat to Sam Houston in the nonconference finale were the low points.
Discipline remains a noticeable sticking point with this team. It’s hard to wrap your head around how a Rice team that made quick work of a good Penn team could flounder against Lamar and also erase a 22-point deficit to knock off UC Santa Barbara on the road. The best of Rice can hang with an elite Houston team. The worst was blown out by Arkansas by 48 points.
The team is still young, and their collective experience has produced positive moments. If they can pull together enough of those, they should be able to take another step forward as conference play begins.
The path forward
Five of the Owls’ first seven conference games are away from home. They’ll tip off against Marshall on Thursday, January 2 and make the short trip to Western Kentucky on Saturday, January 4. Then they return home for games against Florida Atlantic (Jan. 9) and FIU (Jan. 11)
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