Rice Preview: Back In Houston

Texas heads back to the Toyota Center in Houston for a Saturday match-up with the Rice Owls in a game that will be a homecoming for over a third of the Texas roster.

NO. 4/5 TEXAS (8-0) vs. RICE (2-5)
7:00 p.m. (CST), Saturday, Toyota Center, Houston
Television: CSTV

Texas' series with the Owls in basketball has gone much like the one in football. The Runnin' Horns hold a 130-59 series lead heading into their 190th meeting with the old Southwest Conference Foe. The numbers say this should be a rout, but with the accolades and attention the 2007-2008 Longhorns are receiving, there could easily be the danger of overlooking a seemingly hapless opponent.

But Texas point guard D.J. Augustin told Inside Texas that the Horns play tough every single contest because of the bullseye that is now squarely on their chests.

"We've got to come out ready to play because everybody's trying to beat us," said Augustin. "We've got to be ready to play."

Texas more than proved it can avoid the letdown with an 88-72 defeat of North Texas on Wednesday, just three days after the Horns knocked off No. 1 UCLA.

Several Texas players also want to play their best against Rice because it'll be a homecoming for some.

"We've got a lot of guys from Houston and we want to play a great game against Rice," said Augustin. "They're a great team and we've got to be prepared."

Five players on the Texas roster have Houston-area connections and the Toyota Center will be full of friends and family members of Texas players. Augustin is one of those players, who took Houston as his second home when his family was displaced from New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. Augustin played his senior year of high school at Fort Bend Hightower in Sugar Land and his family still lives in Houston today.

Others, such as sophomore center Dexter Pittman, spent their entire lives in the city and will have a large number of old friends in the building.

"I'm very excited. I've got my family back home and a lot of girls that are ready to see me," said Pittman with a big smile.

Pittman laughed and quickly clarified: "No, not girlfriends, but my friends from high school, you know?"

The 6-10, 295-pound center was a three-year starter Rosenberg Terry High School.

Along with Pittman and Augustin's Houston connections, Connor Atchley went to Clear Lake, Harrison Smith played for Jones High School and freshman forward Gary Johnson, who is still awaiting medical clearance before he can step onto the floor, was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Texas while playing for Aldine High School.

Augustin will start for Texas despite getting three stitches under his left eye after Wednesday's win. The Texas point guard took an elbow to the face in the first half while playing defense.

"I went to steal the ball and when the guy (I was guarding) threw the ball cross-court, he threw his elbow and it hit me in the face," Augustin told Inside Texas.

Rice brings a balanced offense to the game with freshman guard Jasen Williams, senior forward Paulis Packevicius and senior forward Patrick Britton averaging 11.3, 11.3 and 11.1 points per game, respectively. The Owls have struggled from behind the three-point arc, hitting only 27.8 percent of their attempts and have instead relied on banging the boards down low. Packevicius is averaging a double-double, grabbing 10.1 rebounds per game to go with his 11.3 points.

Expect the Longhorns to attack with speed, similar to the win over UCLA, due to Rice's size advantage. The Owls have three centers that are 6-10, six players that are 6-8 or taller and every player on the roster is over six-foot.

Texas played in the Toyota Center last year, beating LSU, 76-75, in overtime on December 10th.

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