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Rice freshman elevating his game in conference play

Rice freshman Sean Obi, seen here on offense against FIU, scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds versus Marshall on Thursday. Obi leads Conference USA in rebounding and is second in field goal percentage.
Jeremy Shapiro

After Thursday’s 22-point, 17-rebound outburst against Marshall, Rice freshman post player Sean Obi was enthused about another statistical category – assists.

“I’m always happy to make a play for our team,” Obi said in the post-game news conference. “If someone is wide open, I try to find him. I think I did a good job with that today. I found Max (Guercy) and Seth (Gearhart). We are a good shooting team.”

Part of the reason Rice has shot the ball fairly well of late is Obi’s high-percentage shooting. Obi made 11 of 13 shots against Marshall, increasing his field goal percentage to .609, second best in Conference USA. He’s been especially accurate during the conference portion of the schedule, making 68 percent of his shots.

“I thought Sean did a really good job of positioning himself and working awfully hard,” Rice coach Ben Braun said. “He had two of his best days of practice since he’s been at Rice, and I thought it carried over to the game against Marshall.”

Now the trick is to ride Obi’s production to wins. The Owls (5-13, 0-5 in Conference USA) are mired in an 8-game losing skid. The last win came Dec. 19 and that was against an NAIA team.

Rice will try to stem the tide tonight against Charlotte (12-6, 3-2). The teams have never met before. Tip off is 7 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.

The 6-9 Nigeria native played at the Green Farms Academy in Connecticut, where he was rated the No. 2 recruit in the state. He scored 1,299 points and 1,090 rebounds in three seasons of high school basketball. His double-double count was 56.

Obi now has seven collegiate doubles-doubles and is averaging a double-double in C-USA games (12.8 points, 10.4 rebounds). He leads the conference in rebounding with 9.6 board a game. His scoring average is up to 11.8 points, and he’s tied for the team lead in blocked shots. And yes, he has 17 assists.

“I talked to our point guard, Max Guercy,” Obi said. “He’s a very good player and very humble. He listens to everyone, even the freshmen. I told him let’s try to establish a presence inside, so then we can get some open looks for Seth and Austin (Ramljak).”

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