Every team in Conference USA saw action this past weekend. C-USA and most of college basketball will take a hiatus beginning Tuesday as the Holiday ensues.
Just to recap the weekend, the trip to the Virgin Islands was all business for Southern Miss as the Golden Eagles won the BVI Tropical Shootout with a 74-60 win over Arkansas Little Rock. They stayed atop the league at 11-2. East Carolina fell to 10-3 after a 90-79 loss to North Carolina State. TCU defeated a now 4-8 Tulsa, 70-58, and Cincinnati topped Middle Tennessee, 69-48. The Blue Raiders now stand at 8-4.
Old Dominion improved to 5-7 after a 69-57 win over UNC Wilmington while UAB dropped its third game of the season to LSU, 86-63. North Texas was an 81-77 winner over Wayland Baptist. Tulane is now 7-6 after beating Alabama State, 84-66. Florida International fell hard to Louisville, 85-56. Anthony Evans and his Golden Panthers are now 8-5.
Marshall lost an opportunity to even its record to 6-6 after an 83-82 nail-biter to Arkansas State on Saturday. Tim Floyd and his UTEP Miners added a 64-51 road win to their books. Charlotte was an 81-76 winner over USC Upstate for its eighth win of the young season. Florida Atlantic lost by three to Elon while Louisiana Tech cruised to an 83-61 win over ULM for their 10th win of the season.
CROSS-TOWN RIVALRY LOOKS TO CONTINUE
Rice got close, very close, but not quite close enough as they fell to Houston 54-52 Saturday at the Toyota Center. The Owls opened their scoring with a pair of three pointers from sophomore guard Keith Washington and junior forward Seth Gearhart. They led 20-10 at the 12:01 mark of the first half due to what seemed to be a sluggish start by the Cougars.
But 6-foot-8 junior forward TaShawn Thomas paced the 8-5 Cougars with 16 points and 10 rebounds. He scored the go-ahead basket with 26 seconds remaining to give Houston a 53-49 lead that it would never relinquish.
However, he wasn’t quite pleased with their display at tipoff.
“Feel like Rice had more energy than we did coming out,” said Thomas. “I don’t know why, but really, that’s what happened. It took the coaches and a couple of leaders on the team to wake up and come out and start getting back that energy.”
The Owls were led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Austin Ramljak with 15 points. Ben Braun’s group fell to 5-6 on the season. Next up are the Texas Longhorns in Austin on Dec. 30 followed by a Jan. 4 date at Tudor Fieldhouse against Harvard.
“That’s going to toughen us up too,” said Braun. “We could go out and play lesser opponents and compete. We play a good schedule and these are non-conference games that’ll only make us better. So, I think it’s about our team competing, learning from these games, (and) hopefully getting a couple of wins along the way.”
Meanwhile, both the Owls and Cougars will devote time and effort to continuing the cross-town rivalry. While the Cougars began play this season in the American Athletic Conference, Houston head coach James Dickey feels the game needs to continue despite the change.
“Ben and I talked about this a couple of years ago when there was so much talk about the shifting of leagues,” said Dickey. “I hope this is something we can continue to do if he wants to. Both institutions think it’s a good game. I think it’s good for the City. It’s important to Rice fans (and) it’s important to Cougar fans.”
“We have had some great games with Houston and we want to continue this rivalry,” said Braun. “It’s important to our program and our fans.”
The Cougars now lead the all-time series 61-18.