John Brannen" />
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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Rivalry picking up steam as of late

UH and Rice will add another chapter to their storied (and mainly one-sided) rivalry come Saturday.

Rice tends to dominate UH in baseball every year, but that’s it. The Cougars usually defeat Rice in football along with men’s and women’s basketball.

But recently, it has been the Owls who are frustrating UH fans and athletes.

Rice capitalized off UH injuries in football, and edged the men’s basketball team five weeks ago.

UH fans are in need of some revenge, and the Cougars should be desperate to get a win over their cross-town nemesis.

Head men’s basketball coach James Dickey’s first season started with promise, but the Cougars, like Rice, are just trying to stay afloat.

UH suffered through a five-game losing streak, and is now in the midst of another.

In spite of that, Dickey has proven he is the right man for the job. Even if the Cougars were facing an insurmountable deficit, Dickey will still be calling timeouts and drawing up plays. Regardless of the situation, he refuses to quit.

With a team that has been criticized for its lack of size and talent, Dickey has been able to squeeze out the most of what the roster is capable of.

He takes practice and discipline seriously, and holds his players responsible for their actions on and off the court.

Most recently Dickey suspended the team’s second leading scorer, senior guard Adam Brown, for an unspecified violation of team rules. With Saturday’s game being Senior Night, perhaps Dickey will lift his suspension to let Brown slice and dice at Hofheinz for potentially the last time.

The talent level of the Owls is close to the Cougars. Rice has been more successful in the past few weeks, but that isn’t saying too much.

The Owls have lost six of their last seven games, after falling to Tulsa 67-57 Wednesday. The Owls’ marquee victory of the season came Feb. 19, an uncharacteristic 67-52 win over Memphis.

Rice is led by versatile Iranian forward Arsalan Kazemi. Through 29 games the sophomore has recorded 15.1 points per game.

His average of 11.2 rebounds per contest is good for fourth in the NCAA, and his 17 double-doubles ties him for the eighth-best mark in the country.

His talent will likely land him a future playing professionally. If he doesn’t make the cut for the NBA, he’ll certainly find work overseas.

There’s just one beef. Kazemi does not understand the concept of a contact sport, and that his opponents are not supposed to play nice. All those NCAA-leading statistics aside, Kazemi probably leads the country in complaining to the officials and whining for calls in his favor.

He channels the mannerisms of a European soccer player and dramatically flops and flails his way to the floor in any instance of physical contact. In fact, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should reverse its decision to give Colin Firth the award for best actor and give it to Kazemi for his performance against UH on Jan. 26 — he deserved an Oscar for his superb abilities as a thespian.

Maybe Rice could make another excuse to hire a celebrity for a teacher and create a class for Kazemi to lecture. After he graduates he could join rapper Bun B as a guest lecturer at Rice, so he could give lessons on how to fake an injury when the going gets tough.

The refs do not always fall for Kazemi’s act — but they did during a critical juncture at the last game. He hit the deck before forward Alandise Harris even touched him and the officials blew the whistle.

That was just one of several grievances when it came to the crew of officials that night. The staff was J.B. Caldwell, Jeff Malham and Mark Whitehead. The three clowns displayed an unprofessional performance and gave Rice multiple calls that were questionable at best.

When UH committed a foul or another violation, the officials seemed to take great pleasure in calling something against the Cougars.

The Owls were able to make the clutch shots and key defensive stops, but the extra assistance from the officials gave them an unfair advantage.

Hopefully Conference USA assigns a different crew of officials for Saturday’s tilt. Larry, Curly and Moe of the Three Stooges could call a more balanced game than Caldwell, Malham and Whitehead.

Even if both teams are in the dregs of C-USA, both will play passionately — as if a championship was on the line. For the three UH seniors, it could be the last time they ever get to play at Hofheinz. A win over UH’s rival would do them justice.

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