GAME NOTES: The Rice Owls look to snap a four-game losing streak when they host the Florida Atlantic Owls in Conference USA action Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse.
FAU and Rice are at the bottom of the Conference USA standings early, but have time to climb out with immediate changes to their season. Florida Atlantic finally snapped a four-game losing streak with a win against Warner Southern on Jan. 1, but fell back to the losing column with an 84-64 beating at the hands of Louisiana Tech Thursday.
Rice was at one point .500 on the season before suffering a four-game slide. The Owls lost their first conference matchup Thursday night to FIU, 71-60, at the Tudor Fieldhouse.
This will be the first-ever meeting between the two Conference USA programs. It's also the only time they'll meet during the regular season.
Florida Atlantic was dominated by Louisiana Tech Thursday night in Conference USA play. The contest was close for the first half, but the Bulldogs pulled away as soon as the second half was underway in Ruston. Jackson Trapp paced the Owls with 16 points and five rebounds in the loss. Justin Raffington netted 12 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds to secure the double- double, and D'Andre Johnson scored 10 with a team-best five assists. The Owls shot just 23.5 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent from the free-throw line in the contest.
Pablo Bertone, who scored eight points in the loss to Louisiana Tech, is the team's leading scorer this season at 18.5 ppg, with Trapp a distant second at 10 ppg. Those two players are the only two double-digit scorers in terms of average for the Owls, who net 68.3 ppg. Raffington is solid underneath the basket, grabbing 8.5 rpg for FAU and shooting 56.3 percent from the pivot. The Owls have turned the ball over 206 times to their 181 assists this season.
Rice had a back-and-forth battle going with FIU on Thursday night, as the teams exchanged the lead 16 times in the contest. Only one Rice player netted double-digit points in the game - Austin Ramljak's 14 on 5-of-12 shooting from the floor. Andrew Drone and Drew Bender scored nine and eight points, respectively, off the bench. Sean Obi had seven points and eight rebounds, which was a team-high. The Owls shot 38.6 percent from the field in the loss.
Ramljak has been the leader for this season's Rice squad, netting 12.5 ppg with Obi behind at 11.1 ppg. The big man Obi is by far the team's leader in rebounding, grabbing 9.2 rpg in 14 outings. The kryptonite for Rice this season has been its offense, scoring just 65.8 ppg on 40.8 percent shooting from the floor. Rice has been outscored in the second half, 502-451, this year.
This game is a toss-up between two struggling Conference USA teams. Even though Florida Atlantic hasn't won a road game this season, the team has the tools to outscore Rice in its building.
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