The No. 15 Houston Cougars (1-0) look to build on a tight season opener when facing the Rice Owls (1-0) on Friday.
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The game (8 p.m. ET start time) isn’t on TV, but anyone in the US can watch Houston vs Rice live on ESPN+:
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You can also watch on your computer via ESPN.com.
Houston vs Rice Preview
Houston got a scare in its season opener against Hofstra on Tuesday and won’t want history to repeat itself on Friday against Rice.
The Cougars needed a comeback and overtime to beat Hofstra 83-72, and it took a 34-13 run in order to pull it off. Marcus Sasser led the Cougars with 25 points.
“I am glad we played a good team,” Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson said per the Associated Press. “First of all, I am thankful to win, but I am also thankful we struggled. We played harder than them the last six minutes. Our defense just went up another level. Our rebounding, we dominated the boards the last six minutes.”
Rice, meanwhile, pulled away from Pepperdine on Tuesday night to win 82-63. The Owls outscored the Waves 46-28 in the second half. Travis Evee led the Owls with 24 points.
Defensively, the Owls held Pepperdine to 35.4% shooting and outrebounded the Waves 34-10 on their end of the floor. The Owls also had 12 steals.
“It’s certainly the emphasis,” Owls coach Scott Pera said per Field Level Media. “Things become important when they’re on the front of your mind, and it’s on the front of our guys’ minds. It’s been since June.
“We now are a veteran team,” Pera added. “Having that maturity, the strength, the experience — yes we’ve emphasized it. We’ve always tried to emphasize it, but it’s just a different group. They take it very seriously and are proud.”
Sampson doesn’t expect things to be any easier against Rice though the Cougars haven’t lost the Owls in their past six meetings. Houston won 97-89 the last time the two met in 2019.
‘Everybody thinks you’re better than you are until you see what I’ve seen the last month,” Sampson said per Houston Athletics. ”We’re going to struggle until we find an identity. We found an identity in the last six minutes (against Hofstra). We didn’t have one the first 34. Was I surprised by that? Of course not. You think this stuff is easy? It’s hard to win a game.”
Houston has numerous areas to improve from Tuesday’s win. The Cougars shot 44.6% from the field and 60% at the free-throw line. The Cougars narrowly out-rebounded Hofstra 46-42 and mustered only four steals.
“We look forward to the challenge of playing Houston,” Pera said per Field Level Media. “They’re obviously a tremendous program, an elite program in the country with what Kelvin has done.”