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The Cougars are hoping to bounce back from a heart-breaking 72-71 loss to BYU. They'll have their work cut out for them when they travel to face a talented Rice quad.
The Owls have started the season winning four of their first five games. Rice also had its share of close contests as they came from 22 points down to beat UCSB 82-81 in their most recent victory.
Tuesday's game takes place at the Tudor Fieldhouse with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. EST.
The Cougar looking to earn their second winHouston does many things well but one area they must improve in is perimeter shooting. The Cougars made 23% of their three-point shots against BYU. Improving their shot will be a tall order against the Owls, who allow teams to make only 30% of their three-point shots. Therefore, for the Cougars to improve to 2-1, they'll have to make contested shots from behind the arc.
While their perimeter game struggles, Houston is really proficient in their other shot selections, making 49% of their field-goal attempts. And they have many players they rely on to score. Four players carry double-digit scoring averages for the Cougars who are led by Fabian White Jr. His play inside could be essential for Houston who wants to use their size to impose their will against Rice.
Defensively, they face an Owls' offense that features outstanding shooters. Against the Gauchos, Rice shot 52% from behind the arc. Facing an offense with the high level of precision the Owls feature means Houston needs its best defensive effort of the season to earn the victory on the road.
Rice's offensive versatility fuels their successThe Owls are a tough team to guard because they have many scorers they can rely on. They've had three different players lead the team in scoring so far this season. Moreover, while Trey Murphy III leads the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game, Rice is deep. They have seven players averaging five or more points per game.
Normally, Rice would use its depth to dictate the tempo of the game. However, they're facing a Houston squad filled with playmakers from top to bottom of their roster. And their bench is reliable in scoring points. Therefore, for Rice to win on their home court, their defense must rise to the occasion.
Along with contesting shots, the battle in the paint is the one to watch. Guard Drew Peterson leads the Owls on the boards with almost seven per game and he faces a talented Houston offense, where guard Nate Hinton averages seven and a half rebounds per game. Peterson has the size advantage, so if he can win this battle, it'll limit Houston's possessions and possibly lead to quick scoring opportunities.
Trends found on Covers.com Rice is:
- 3-8 ATS in non-conference games
- 13-3 ATS in last 16 road games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Cougars feature more playmakers on their offense. They'll use this depth and skill to trade scores with a very talented Rice offense. In this contest, look for Houston to rely more on high-percentage shots, using these to jump out to an early lead. The Owls are too good defensively on the perimeter to allow many open threes, so the Cougars will use their guard play to create other opportunities inside. In what should be a close contest throughout, Houston's playmakers prove to be the difference, as they make shots late to improve to 2-1.
Full-Game Total Pick
Both teams' defenses hold opponents to under 70 points per game. Moreover, Rice is 14-3 in the Under in their last 17 home games. I expect the defenses to show up strong in this one, as Rice holds Houston's perimeter game in check while the Cougars do an excellent job on the boards to limit the Owls' possessions. This leads to a lower-scoring contest that Houston wins late.