March 10, 2014
C-USA Championship Central | Tournament Bracket | Rice Tournament Notes
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EL PASO, Texas - Rice University men's basketball heads to the tournament to face North Texas in the opening round on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. CT. The Owls topped the Mean Green, 75-70, in the first meeting this season.
The winner advances to face No. 7 Tulane in the second round while No. 2 Tulsa awaits the winner of that contest on Thursday.
Noting the Tournament
Three of the Owls' last four tournament games have been decided by five points or less, including last season's 72-67 setback to Houston in the opening round.
Sean Obi wrapped up a phenomenal regular season, as he led the league in rebounding, with 9.3 per game. The rookie also ranks third with a 59.6 shooting percentage.
His 270 boards are just two shy of Rice's freshman record, and he ranks second nationally in rebounding.
Obi and Austin Ramljak are tied for the team lead, with 11.4 points apiece per game.
The last time the C-USA tourney was held in El Paso, Rice topped SMU in the first round before falling to second-seeded Tulsa in the quarterfinals in 2011.
Six current Owls have C-USA Championship experience, which all gained for the first time last season.
Ramljak scored 11 points in last year's tournament game to lead the active roster. Keith Washington added four assists and two steals.
Last Time Out
Rice honored seniors Ramljak and Bahrom Firozgary in their last game at Tudor Fieldhouse, but Louisiana Tech spoiled the festivities with a 70-48 win.
Firozgary made his first start of the season and scored the Owls first points of the game. Ramljak was limited due to a hand injury but sank the three-pointer needed to take over Rice's single-season record.
Obi paced the squad with 12 points and five rebounds while Washington also reached double figures with 11 points.
The Owls knocked down 52.9 percent of their shots in the first half, including 4-of-8 three-pointers to keep the game tight, 29-22 at the half.
Scouting the Mean Green (15-15, 6-10)
North Texas enters the tournament on a two-game skid after falling to UTEP and Tulsa at home to close out the regular season.
Jordan Williams leads the team with 12.3 points per game and Alzee Williams also scores in double figures with 11.5 points, including 18 at Rice earlier this season.
The Mean Green is 0-2 in neutral site games this season with setbacks to Columbia and Idaho at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Portland, Ore. in late November. The team then topped host Portland to close out the event.
Tuesday's game is NT's first Conference USA Championship appearance.
Austin Ramljak, the reigning Conference USA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for Men's Basketball, was honored again by the league with his selection to the C-USA All-Academic team on Thursday, March 6.
Rice has had a representative on the team each year since its inception in 2007. Ramljak made the team as a junior last season and was joined by teammate Seth Gearhart.
This season's Scholar Athletes will be announced by the league following the season.
Tuesday's winner faces No. 7 Tulane at 1 p.m. CT on Wednesday in the second round.