The Rice Owls shouldn't have to struggle against a team like the St. Gregory's Cavaliers. St. Gregory's is one of those NAIA teams brought in to boost records and help with the confidence. And a final score of 75-58 makes it appear that Rice didn't have that many problems on Sunday afternoon. But thinking that would be wrong.
Playing with a short bench - St. Gregory's only went with seven players - the Cavs were able to hang around with Rice and were only down by nine points with over seven minutes remaining in the game. Then Rice went on one last final run to finally put the game out of reach and lock down a win they should have locked away way, way sooner.
The problem for Rice (3-1) was twofold. There were players who didn't take the game seriously because of the status of St. Gregory's as a school, then there was the hangover from their heartbreaking 66-65 loss to Santa Clara last Thursday - a game in which Rice had led until the very end.
"I think it was being overconfident and being kind of cocky," guard Tamir Jackson said after the game. "We had some players talk about this is a NAIA school, why are we playing them. I heard some people saying as a joke this is a [Division Five] school. It was just a little cockiness and arrogance. That's what happened to us. That's why we came out bad."
And Rice didn't help themselves with their poor first half play which basically consisted of shooting the ball from over the floor and hoping that it went in the net, which it often didn't. The result being what Rice often has been and what they're trying not to be: a school that plays down to the level of their opponents.
"They let us get open shots," Jackson said. "And we took the first open shot, and not necessarily the best shot. So we kind of rushed ourselves by taking the first open shot instead of letting the shot clock and get the best shot."
The Cavaliers refused to die easy
"We're very disappointed with ourselves," Jackson said. "We just got to come ready [Monday] to practice, just come with intensity, be very concnetrated, then go to North Texas [tomorrow] and play better."
And Tuesday night is the start of a rough stretch for the Owls. They're up in Denton on Tuesday, taking on North Texas, then they're in Austin on Saturday afternoon playing the Longhorns. Then they return to Tudor Fieldhouse on December 1 to host Arizona.
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To top that off, the Owls might have to handle those games without guard Connor Frizzelle who left yesterday's game after being slammed into a stanchion while trying to take a shot. He appeared to take a hard shot to the shoulder, but Owls coach Ben Braun said that Frizzelle took a blow to the head and that he was unconscious for a short while on the court, and that he doesn't remember what happened on the play. He wasn't able to leave the court under his own power - he nearly collapsed after trying to walk - and he was carried off by his fellow players and after the game was suffering from concussion-type symptoms.
But for now, the Owls can look at this game with St. Gregory's, one in which they shot only 43.5-percent from the floor, including 34.3-percent in the first half, and say that they came out the victors. They've got much work to do if they want to be competitive in their next three games - shot selection, rebounding, intensity, defense among them - but at least they claim they were finally able to put away the St. Gregory Cavaliers.
SOME MISCLENAEOUS NOTES:
Arsalan Kazemi finished with 19 points, which was a career high, but he nearly didn't play as he was suffering from an ankle injury and from an illness....While this win counts for Rice's record, St. Gregory's is treating all of its games Division I opponents (University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Rice, and Lamar) as exhibition games, so this loss does not count against their record.