Texas to host struggling Rice

The #6 Texas Longhorns are back from Maui after a third place finish, rested and ready to host the Rice Owls Sunday at 2pm. The Texas Longhorns didn't get to the championship game as they had hoped at the Maui Invitational, but took care of business after a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame by beating Oregon 70-57.

After a couple of days of rest, Texas (4-1) returns to the court playing host to a struggling Rice Owls team under the direction of first year head coach Ben Braun.

While the Longhorns are ranked in the top ten and are expected to make another deep NCAA Tournament run, the Rice Owls are in the first year of a re-building project.

Rice enters Sunday afternoon with a 2-3 record. The two victories came against Cal-Poly (81-76) and North Florida (68-46).

The Owls losses have been underwhelming at the hands of Portland State (78-74), BYU (81-52) and most recently Lamar at home (61-53).

The Owls seem to have settled on a three guard line-up with none of the guards being taller than 6-3. Rice features just one player in the rotation at 6-10 or taller in sophomore transfer Trey Stanton.

For Texas, the game will be about the starters playing to an expected level and the reserves getting extended time for continued development. Texas will have a major advantage on the boards and should dominate on the offensive glass versus man or zone.

The Longhorns beat Rice 80-54 on December 8 last year at the Toyota Center.

Sunday's tip is set for 2pm and will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest throughout Texas.

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 453-228, including 251-94 at Texas. Barnes is 16-10 in NCAA Tournament games at Texas.

Rice is coached by Ben Braun, who is in his 31st season, including 24th at the D-1 level. Braun owns a career record of 406-289 at the D-1 level, including 6-7 in the NCAA Tournament. Braun previously coached California for 12 years.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 46.2% from the field, 37.0% from three and 57.6% from the free throw line.

The Owls convert 42.6% overall, 34.3% from the three-point line and 68.5% from the foul line.

The Longhorns surrender just 34.2% shooting and own a +8.8 rebound advantage.

Rice gives up 44.2% defensively and check in with a -0.4 rebounding margin.

The Longhorns are committing 15.2 turnovers per game, while Rice is turning the ball over 12.2 times per contest.

The Longhorn Starters

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (17.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals)

F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (6.4 points, 3.8 rebounds)

Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (10.6 points, 7.8 rebounds), 6-1 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.3 points), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (1.5 points, 1.5 rebounds), 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.8 points, 2.2 rebounds) and 6-8 sophomore Alexis Wangmene (3.0 points, 3.0 rebounds).

The Owl Starters

G Rodney Foster 6-0 Sr. (8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists)

G Connor Frizzelle 6-1 Fr. (9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds)

G Cory Pflieger 6-3 Jr. (10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists)

F Aleks Perka 6-7 Sr. (9.0 points, 6.8 rebounds)

F Trey Stanton 6-10 So. (6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds)

Key reserves include 5-11 sophomore Bryan Beasley (6.6 points, 1.6 assists), 6-5 junior Lawrence Goram (5.0 points, 2.2 rebounds), 6-8 freshman Lucas Kuipers (5.2 points, 2.4 rebounds) and 6-8 sophomore Suleiman Braimah (2.8 points, 2.4 rebounds).

Keys to the Game

The Longhorns face a team Sunday that will not likely pose much of a test, but a game in which Coach Barnes can build depth and get Varez Ward and Dogus Balbay extended work as well as Clint Chapman.

The Owls have a talented shooter in Cory Pflieger, who hits 44% from the three-point line.

Rice guards Rodney Foster and Bryan Beasley will both look to penetrate and the Longhorns must stay in front of them. If the Longhorns guard stay in front of the ball, Rice will struggle on offense more than they have thus far in the first five games.

Starting forward Aleks Perka and Trey Stanton will not test the Longhorns physically, but Stanton has the ability to face up and make perimeter jump shots. Stanton, a Navy transfer, is the only Rice player that is 6-10 or taller.

If Damion James will play to his strengths as he did against Oregon, he should have a 20+ point and 15+ rebound game. James pulled down more than 15 rebounds against Rice last year.

A.J. Abrams will get any shot he desires against man-to-man, but has to make a concerted effort to take good shots in the flow and try to make his teammates better using his shooting ability to put the ball on the floor and find teammates.

This is a game Clint Chapman should receive multiple scoring chances and he must slow down, take his time and make skilled finishes. In the first five games, the sophomore has had several high percentage chances to score, but has rushed with many misses to follow.


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