Thursday, February 19, 2004

Rice gets big wins in Basketball, Baseball 

Its a great time to be a fan of the Owls. Pick a sport, any sport...

Last night, the Owls paid back the Nevada Wolf Pack (16-8, 10-5) with an 87-75 victory behind Michael Harris' 11th double-double of the season. Harris scored 18 pts and pulled down 14 rebounds while Jason McKreith added 18 and Brock Gillespie and Rashid Smith chipped in 16 apiece.

The victory was payback for a 25-point defeat earlier in the year in Nevada. The win moves the Owls to 17-7 on the season and into a four-way tie for first place in the WAC with a 9-4 record.

Rice now hosts the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, Feb. 21 at noon, as part of ESPN's Bracket Buster Saturday. Unfortunately, the Owls recent slump knocked this game off of ESPN2, but it can be seen on ESPN's subscription Full Court Package.

ESPN now has a feature called Bubble Watch, where Rice is listed as on the bubble along with Hawaii, Nevada, and UTEP. They write:

If you thought the WAC was wide-open before Wednesday night, check out the standings today. Three teams -- UTEP, Hawaii and Rice -- are locked atop the standings at 9-4, while Nevada sits at 10-5. Nevada lost at Rice on Wednesday, while Hawaii lost at Boise State (a loss it couldn't afford at this point of the season). None, however, are in the top 40 of the RPI. That means the conference tournament will likely determine who dances. The Owls (17-7) host Louisiana Lafayette on Saturday in the Bracket Buster. Even beating Southern Illinois on Saturday in the Bracket Buster won't help Hawaii nearly as much as it could have before losing to the Broncos. The Warriors play at UTEP (18-6) next Tuesday and end the season at Nevada and Fresno State. As for the Wolf Pack, two of its final four games are at home, including a game against Toledo on Saturday. The Miners, meanwhile, finish with three on the road.

And on Tuesday, the baseball team won the first of their five games with crosstown rival Cougar High, beating them 8-4. Junior Josh Baker picked up his second win of the year. In an interesting twist, Wade Townsend came in to squelch a two on, two out rally in the eighth and put up a 1-2-3 ninth on the way to his first save as an Owl. This looks like a temporary solution to bolster a bullpen that has missed its championship closer, David Aardsma, who is now in the San Francisco Giants organization. Townsend is still scheduled to start on Saturday.

Rice next plays three games this weekend as they host the Coca-Cola Classic Tournament at Reckling Park. Jeff Niemann returns to the hill in an attempt to keep his unbeaten streak alive against Wake Forest (0-0) Friday night at 6pm. On Saturday, Wade Townsend returns to his starter role against Cal State Northridge (4-6) Saturday at 2:30. Note the time change of the Saturday game so as to not conflict with the Rice basketball game. And, on Sunday, Philip Humber gets his 2004 debut (11-3, 3.30 ERA last year) against 2003 College World Series participant Arizona State (6-1) at 2:30. All Rice baseball games can be heard through the Internet at www.ktru.org or www.tsrnsports.com. And all Rice home games are televised over the Internet via the subscription service OwlVision at www.maxvu.tv.

Junior Adam Morris was named WAC Player of the Week last year after his 4-8 showing in the Minute Maid Classic including a grand slam against Kansas State.

Heck, even the 22nd ranked tennis team is kicking butt for the Owls right now, opening the season 7-0 including back-to-back wins over #3 Stanford and #11 California. Brian McTaggert's weekly update in the Houston Chronicle has all the details.

And the ladies are getting into the act, with an 8-game basketball winning streak to run their record up to 14-7, 11-1 in WAC play. They have two weeks and four games against teams with losing records to go until their rematch with sixth-ranked Louisiana Tech, who they upset earlier this year. The Lady Owls now have an outside shot at pulling out a tournament bid, but will likely need to defeat the Lady Techsters on March 2nd, or beat them in the WAC tournament.

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