Rice Owls (5-21) vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (19-7)
When and Where: Saturday, February 17, Houston, TX., 8.00 PM EST
The matchup that will take place at Tudor Fieldhouse features two teams that are going in opposite directions this season. The hosts, Rice Owls who stand at 2-11 record inside the Conference-USA are meeting with the WKU Hilltoppers, who are on the other side 11-2 in the same segment this year. The Owls are coming off from a 93-80 home loss by Marshall on Thursday, while the Hilltoppers took down North Texas on the road, 102-94 after OT, also on Thursday.
The Hilltoppers eager to write down fourth straight win
Many teams consider the visit to Rice Owls a sure win in their pocket and so are the Hilltoppers who are getting ready for the conference championship tournament in which they should have the lead role. Their recent form backs them up as they have 13 wins in last 15 overall matches including last three straight. The only CUSA rivals that managed to take them down this season are UTSA and Middle Tennessee, but they’ll have the chance to return the favor to the Blue Raiders before the end of the regular-season schedule. On the stat sheet, the team scores 78.5 points per match on offense (68th in the NCAA) while allowing 70.3 points per game to their opponents (128th nationally).
Five guys on the Hilltoppers’ roster average double scoring figures with senior guard Darius Thompson on the top of the hill with an average of 14.9 points and team-high 4.6 assists per match. Another senior, forward Justin Johnson posts 14.6 points and team-high 9.3 rebounds per duel while the guard, Taveion Hollingsworth records 13.8 points and 3.2 boards on average. Dwight Coleby and Lamonte Bearden are other two players from our list with 11.9 and 11.0 points while Coleby also averages solid 8.3 boards per game. In a win over the Mean Green, Hollingsworth led the team with 30 points while Thompson added 28.
The Owls turning their focus to the next season
The Rice Owls will have the chance to make an impact during the conference championship but everything that they’ve shown this season indicates an early exit. The Owls are currently riding a five-game losing streak that will probably look like six-game streak after Saturday considering the strength of their next opponents. The squad averages 68.0 points per game on offense (301st in the NCAA) but their weak side comes on the defense as they limit their opponents to 75.8 total points per game (269th in the country).
Individually, junior guard Connor Cashaw tops the squad in scoring by averaging 16.2 points along with team-high 6.8 boards and second-best 3.0 assists per game. Another guard, Ako Adams follows with 10.3 points and team-high 3.2 assists while the defensive leader, Malik Osborne records 8.4 points and 6.5 boards per contest. Bishop Mency and Robert Martin are two other notable contributors with 8.4 and 8.2 points on average. In a loss by Thundering Herd, Cashaw led the team with 24 points while Osborne added 22.
- 4-0 ATS in their last four games after scoring more than 90 points in their previous game.
- 4-1 ATS in their last five games vs. a team with a winning % below .400.
- 2-6-1 O/U in their last nine games overall.
- 0-5 ATS in their last five home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
- 0-6 ATS in their last six home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- 1-5 O/U in their last six games following a double-digit loss at home.
The Hilltoppers should get this one easily against poor Owls. In Totals segment, Under seems to make most sense at the moment.