Rice basketball gave one of the best teams in Conference USA, North Texas, a serious scare before running out of gas in both squad’s first conference game of the season.
With just under five minutes remaining in the first half Rice led the 12-win North Texas Mean Green by 11 points at Tudor Fieldhouse. It seemed like the holiday break had done this team some good and the Owls were clicking on both sides of the ball. Then North Texas ended the half on a 17-1 run, flipping the script and putting Rice in comeback mode. They never recovered.
A five-point deficit widened over the second half. When the final buzzer sounded, Rice had fallen by the final score of 103-87.
Streaky shooting went in favor of the Mean Green in this one. The Owls’ opponent connected on seven of their last eight shots in the first half and five of their first six shots in the second half. Those two runs coincided with 12 consecutive misses from the field for Rice.
Entering the game with a 5-8 record, Rice needed to show they were ready for a tough conference slate. The loss is discouraging, but outside of one bad 10-minute stretch of play, the Owls stood toe-to-toe with one of the conference’s best teams. They’re going to have to play a full 40 minutes if they want to turn those “almosts” into wins, but this was a positive first step.
Player of the game – Robert Martin
Chris Mullins has been the engine who makes this offense go, but his 10-point, four assist effort was overshadowed by Robert Martin’s monster game. In three prior games against North Texas, Martin combined for 12 total points. On Saturday the junior forward had a magic touch. He knocked down 9-of-11 shots and all 12 of his free throw attemps, tallying a career-best 35 points.
Up Next – Southern Miss
Rice stays home for the next conference tilt, hosting Southern Miss (8-5) on Thursday, Jan. 3. Tip off is scheduled for 3 p.m. Southern Miss is coming off their first CUSA game, a loss to Louisiana Tech.
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