GAME NOTES: The Rice Owls hit the road for the first time this season, as they invade the Liacouras Center on Saturday for a non-conference clash with the Temple Owls.
Fran Dunphy's Owls are once again one of the top teams in the Atlantic-10 Conference and did little to change that notion in the season-opener, going on the road to post an impressive 80-66 win at Kent State. Getting a healthy Scootie Randall back on the floor is sure to ignite Temple, as evidenced by his career-high 31 points in the season-opener.
Ben Braun's Owls haven't exactly opened the season with top-notch competition and a 1-1 mark in home bouts with St. Thomas (72-59 loss) and St. Edward's (75-63 win) has to be a little concerning.
Temple has won both previous meetings with Rice, including a 77-70 victory in Houston last season.
The Owls evened their record at 1-1 with a 12-point win over St. Edward's. Senior Tamir Jackson led the way with his first career double-double, finishing with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Four others joined Jackson in double digit-scoring, with freshman point guard Max Guercy netting a team-high 17 points. Sophomore forward Seth Gearhart finished with 15 points, while freshmen Ross Wilson and Keith Washington chipped in with 10 points apiece. An extremely young team, Rice will certainly suffer growing pains trying to navigate through the Conference USA. Guercy though, has made an immediate impact through two games, shooting .533 from the floor, netting 14.5 ppg. By virtue of his big game on the glass against St. Edward's, Jackson comes into this contest averaging a double-double (12.5 ppg. 10.0 rpg). Gearhart (12.5 ppg) gives the team a third option at the offensive end.
It was a long road back to the court for Randall, but he made the most of it in the season-opening win, hitting 10-of-19 shots from the floor, including five 3-pointers in a career-high 31-point eruption. Anthony Lee provided a complementary role in the frontcourt with a career-high 16 points and eight rebounds, while top-returning scorer Khalif Wyatt managed nine points and six assists in just 17 minutes of work. Temple was able to deliver on 52.9 percent of its shots in the game, including a scorching 60 percent in the first half (15-of-25). The Owls also played well defensively, limiting Kent State to just 37.3 percent shooting, while forcing the hometown team into 21 turnovers.
With Randall back, the Owls are a dangerous squad with the ability to score in a number of ways. Dunphy has a team that will not only vie for the A-10 crown, but could make some noise come the postseason.
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