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Conference USA Notebook: Rice Revival?

Western Kentucky (12-5, 5-0) hosts UTEP (12-5, 4-1) in a battle of Conference USA heavyweights on Thursday. WKU is coming off of a pair of conference wins down in Florida, while UTEP knocked off UTSA as well as a non-conference opponent in Texas-Pan American.

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Rice got 20 points and 5 rebounds from Marcus Jackson along with 18 points and 5 rebounds from Seth Gearhart as the Owls went on the road and knocked off Charlotte in overtime. There were 59 three point shots attempted in the game with Rice finishing 12-34 and Charlotte making 7-25.

Charlotte gets a chance to get back on track with a pair of road contests against MTSU and UAB. The 49ers have battled through a tough schedule and the absence of Head Coach Alan Major due to illness.

Old Dominion also takes on UAB and MTSU while Louisiana Tech heads to Texas to take on Rice and UNT. Western Kentucky, in addition to their showdown with UTEP, will face UTSA; while the Miners head over to Marshall after playing the Hilltoppers.

Eric McCree scored 26 in LA Tech's win over UAB while Alex Hamilton added 20. Robert Brown led UAB with 16. Hamilton pumped in 30 points in the Bulldog's win over MTSU while going 20-23 from the free throw line. Hamilton was named CUSA Player of the Week.

Pomeroy has Old Dominion ranked 43rd, LA Tech 64th, and UTEP at 67. Western Kentucky came in at 99 and Charlotte is at 127.

Sagarin has ODU at 37, UTEP at 64, and LA Tech at 87. Western Kentucky comes in at 104 and Charlotte is at 116.

Massey has Old Dominion at 40, LA Tech at 66, and UTEP at 76. WKU is right behind them at 83.

RealTimeRPI.com has ODU at 30, WKU at 74, UTEP at 79, and LA Tech at 76. Charlotte ranks 133rd.

In all four rankings, UAB and MTSU are the only other teams that rank in the top 200.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has Old Dominion seeded 9th in the NCAA tournament and Louisiana Tech seeded 13th.

With five conference games played by all league members, the conference stats are starting to take shape. The following stats leaders are for conference games only:

Raheem Appleby of Louisiana Tech leads the conference in scoring at 21.2 while Rice's Marcus Jackson is second with 20.8 points per game. Dennis Mavin of FIU and WKU's George Fant are tied for third with 19.4 points per game. T.J. Price of WKU is fifth at 19.4 and Tech's Alex Hamilton is next with 18.6 points per game.

Fant leads the league in rebounding with 11.4 per game and UTEP's Vince Hunter is next with 9.0 per game. Kelvin Penn of FAU is in third with 7.4 per game.

Willie Clayton of Charlotte is making 79.2% of his field goal attempts while FAU's C.J. Turman and Kaj-Bjorn Sherman of UTSA are both at 70.8% from the field. Adrian Diaz of FIU, Chris Cokley of UAB, and ODU's Richard Ross are all just under 70% from the floor.

LA Tech's Speedy Smith leads the league in assists with 7.6 per game and Charlotte's Pierria Henry is second with 5.6 per game.

Henry leads the league in steals with 3.2 per game and ODU's Trey Freeman is next with 2.2 per game. UNT freshman Jeremy Combs is in third with 2.0 per game.

UTEP's Earvin Morris has hit 17 of 32 (.531) from three point land and Rice's Marcus Jackson has made 21-41 (.512) from deep. The La Tech duo of Raheem Appleby (17-35) and Eric McCree (10-21) are both one miss away from being at 50% from behind the arc.

UAB's Tosin Mehinte and FIU's Adrian Diaz lead the league in blocks with 2.8 per game each and LA Tech's Michale Kyser is right behind them with 2.6 per game.