Rice Basketball: Farce? Fiasco? Either Way, the Owls Lose Another

John Royal
The malfunctioning shot clock displays Rice's chances of advancing to the NCAA Tournament
What if they played a basketball game and nobody cared? What if it was senior night, but the school was on spring break and not even the band or cheerleaders could be bothered to make even a token appearance? What if the shot clock didn't work? What if neither team could hit a shot if they were throwing a golf ball at an aircraft carrier from 2 inches?

Such was life at Tudor Fieldhouse last night, where the Rice Owls hosted the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in one of the worst excuses for a so-called Division One college basketball game seen in years. Then again, seeing as nobody from Rice could actually be bothered to attend the game, does it really matter?

And this is Conference USA, a one-bid basketball conference that, if truth be told, probably doesn't even deserve to have one team in the field of 68 teams for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament set to tip off in two weeks. So being that it was C-USA, and being that both schools were actually out on the basketball court and in their uniforms, play the game they attempted to do. It's just that when they attempted to, they did it really, really badly as Tulsa defeated Rice 67-57.

Rice (12-17, 4-11) shot only 33.3 percent from the floor in the first half, but amazingly, they were only down by a point because Tulsa (17-12, 10-5) was shooting only 34.8 percent. And it wasn't because either team was smothering on defense, it was because they were missing wide-open shots, committing turnover after turnover, or finding some stupid mistake to make somewhere on the court.

"It was very poor ball distribution and ball recognition," Owls head coach Ben Braun said after the game. "The age-old thing, do you not see it, or do you not just want to get it in or make the play. So it's a little of both, maybe. And we tried to make some individual plays down the stretch. That hurt us."

The level of play didn't really improve in the second half -- in fact, Rice got even worse, shooting only 30 percent from the floor as they missed countless easy shots (Rice finished by shooting 31.7 percent from the floor for the game). Especially star forward Arsalan Kazemi, who just appeared to be beaten up and tired for the entire game.

"I hope you guys write that," Braun said about Kazemi. "I've been saying that, but he doesn't believe me. It looks like he's tired...I think there's a mental and there's a physical fatigue. Physical fatigue comes from playing hard. It comes from getting knocked around. And that's understandable because he does get his share of knocks, but you've got to play through some of that."

No Attendance.JPG
John Royal
Luckily, there were very few people around to see this fiasco
The Rice Owls are a much better team than what was on the court last night. They might not have the talent of some other teams, but they're generally not as brutally bad on the court as they were last night, what with good shooters passing up wide-open shots from the perimeters in vain, failed attempts to get the ball inside, or if taking the shot, jacking up wild attempts that barely hit the backboard, so far off the target were they.

"We had great opportunities [because of Tulsa turnovers]," Braun said. "We just couldn't come down and convert. Turnovers, you know, 21 turnovers usually lead to a few more assists, a few more breaks, and we either kicked it away, missed some lay-ups..."

Yet as bad as Rice played, Tulsa could not pull away. The score was only 55-51 Tulsa with 6:36 on the clock when Kazemi was fouled and sent to the free-throw line. If he makes the shots, Rice is down by two. He missed them, and a minute later Rice was down by eight and then it didn't really matter how bad Tulsa played because there was just nothing the Owls were going to do that would allow them to catch up with Tulsa.

Then again, if they play a game in a nearly empty arena, does it really matter? Does it count as a game played if there's nobody there to watch the ugliness and awfulness? It counts in Conference USA. And for the Rice Owls, there's only one game left in this regular season. Only one game left to erase what has to be a bad, bitter aftertaste. And seeing as how they're playing the Houston Cougars, a team that actually found a way to lose to Tulane last night, then they just might wipe that bitter aftertaste away.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: The Owls end the regular season on Saturday when they travel to Hofheinz Pavilion to take on the Houston Cougars at 5 p.m....The C-USA tournament will be next week, and the Owls will be either a 10, 11, or 12 seed....Most of the game was played without a shot clock as it malfunctioned about midway through the first half...The game's actual attendance was 1,685, though that number may have been stretched by about a thousand.

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