Aggies host Rice in final game of 2007

No. 11 Texas A&M continues its homestand on Monday afternoon when they host the Rice Owls. The Aggies have won 5 in a row and look poised to move back into the Top 10. Tony Hooten previews the Aggie-Owl clash.

The No. 11 Texas A&M Aggies continue their 8-game homestand on Monday afternoon when they host the Rice Owls at 1 p.m. at Reed Arena.

Texas A&M (12-1) is ranked No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 14 in the Associated Press poll.

Rice (3-7) plays in a tough Conference USA, with the likes of Memphis (11-0), Houston (11-1), and UTEP (9-2).

Rice is coming off their best win of the season, a 70-65 victory over TCU on Saturday, as the Owls came back from a 17-point, first-half deficit. This win avenged a 27-point loss Rice suffered to TCU in their opening game of the season.

Rice is rated No. 306 (of 341) in Jeff Sagarin's Basketball Ratings. The Owls' three wins have come against Eastern Illinois (No. 335), Texas State (No. 304), and TCU (No. 198). Rice's seven losses have included the 27-point loss to TCU, a 27-point loss to Duquesne (No. 34), a 26-point loss to Texas (No. 13), and losses to Richmond (No. 205), Arkansas-Little Rock (No. 161), Louisiana-Monroe (No. 176), and Lamar (No. 282).

By contrast, Texas A&M is currently rated by Sagarin at No. 12. The one common opponent, Texas State, the Aggies beat by 36 points, while Rice won by 7 points.

Willis Wilson is in his 16th season as the Rice head coach. Wilson has 219 career victories at Rice, which is the most of any coach in school history. Entering this season, the last four years the Owls had won a total of 69 games, the fourth-highest total in school history.

This season the Owls have been struggling to replace first-round NBA draft pick Morris Almond. Almond was the Conference USA Player of the Year and the nation's third-leading scorer with 26.1 pointsd a game.

Rice is led by senior forwards Patrick Britton (6-8, 200) and Lithuanian Paulius Packevicius (6-9, 230). Britton is averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds a game while Packevicius (pictured above) is averaging a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Other starters are expected to be sophomore guard Bryan Beasley (6-0, 185), junior guard Rodney Foster (6-1, 185), and sophomore swingman Lawrence Ghoram (6-5, 195). Aggie transfer Beasley has only averaged 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game for the Owls. After averaging under 5 points a game, Ghoram broke out for a career high 26 points in the win over TCU, including 10-of-16 from the field.

Texas A&M is expected to start the same lineup as it has for all 13 games: junior forward Josh Carter (6-7, 200), senior forward Joseph Jones (6-9, 255), freshman center DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 260), sophomore guard Donald Sloan (6-3, 205) and senior guard Dominique Kirk (6-4, 185).

Carter leads the Aggies in scoring with 13.6 points a game and has hit 31 three-pointers. Jones is averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds a game. True freshman Jordan has been coming on strong and is now averaging 10 points and 7 rebounds a game. Sloan and Kirk are each averaging about 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists a game.

With the Aggie winning margin over 13 games over 20 points, the starters have only averaged about 25 minutes a game.

First off the bench amd averaging over 20 minutes a game have been sophomore forward Bryan Davis (6-9, 250) and sophomore guard Derrick Roland (6-4, 190). Davis is averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds a game, while Roland is averaging 8 points and 3 rebounds.

Other Aggies who have seen significant playing time are sophomore forward Chinemelu Elonu (6-10, 235), true freshman guard B.J. Holmes (6-0, 175), true freshman forward Nathan Walkup (6-6, 195), and senior guard Beau Muhlbach (6-5, 205).

The Aggies have won 5 in a row and look poised to move back into the Top 10.

The last time Texas A&M played Rice was December 11th, 1999, a 56-53 win for the Aggies.

The Aggies should win this game easily, provided they are not looking ahead to Saturday's game with LSU.


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