Rice basketball won their second game in pod play on Saturday, downing Middle Tennessee to clinch a spot in the Conference USA conference tournament.
By the time Rice basketball tipped off on Sunday afternoon against Middle Tennessee, they knew what was at stake. A win over the Blue Raiders would secure a berth in the Conference USA conference tournament. That motivation showed early. Rice came out of the gate guns blazing, staking themselves to a 28-8 lead before Middle Tennessee knew what hit them.
A 13-point half time advantage was tested late in the second half. Middle Tennessee would cut the Rice lead to three with 1:13 to play but Drew Peters0n connected on five of Rice’s 18 second half free throws to seal the game and the Owls’ trip to the Conference USA conference tournament.
Peterson finished two points shy of a career best with 16 points. Ako Adams, Robert Martin and Quinton Millora-Brown all finished in double-digit scoring. Millora-Brown added 10 rebounds to secure his fourth double-double of the year.
Conference USA conference tournament scenarios
12 of the 14 Conference USA teams qualify for the conference tournament. Because of how pod play was structured, the top two groupings will advance automatically, leaving room for two of the four teams in Rice’s group to clinch a spot in Frisco.
The double-overtime win over UTEP followed by Saturday’s victory over Middle Tennessee lifts the Owls’ conference record to 7-9. That’s one game better than Middle Tennesee and three games better than 13th place Charlotte.
Rice has two games in bonus play remaining, both against Charlotte. Regardless of the outcome of those games, Rice will finish no worse than 12 in the final standings. At this point, their final two games will be for positioning. If they stay ahead of MTSU Rice will clinch the 11th. For Rice, the final two regular season games will give them two more opportunities to get in a groove before the tournament. Then it’s win or go home.
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