Rice Basketball orchestrated an emphatic come-from-behind victory, stunning visiting Penn in dominant fashion on Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Home court advantage took a while to kick in on Saturday, but when it did, the Owls soared. Rice basketball fell behind 9-0 before the offense woke up, the defense locked down and Penn assumed a deer-in-the-headlights position for the remainder of a decisive Rice victory.
After making one of their first eight shots from the field in the first half, Rice knocked down nine of their next 12. Timely threes by Trey Murphy and Drew Peterson got the offense back in a groove. The Owls ended the first half on an emphatic 21-4 scoring run, having no trouble gettings points from seemingly anywhere on the court.
On the other side of the court, the Rice defense held Penn to 2-of-16 shooting to close out the first half. The early absence of starters Robert Martin and Josh Parrish, who missed the first half for disciplinary reasons, might have slowed the defensive efforts initially, but the unit found their rhythm and held it the rest of the way.
Penn didn’t roll over in the second half, but the Quakers looked shellshocked and lost against the physicality of the Owls. A 12-point halftime lead quickly ballooned to 24. The Rice advantage would hover between 16-t0-20 points for the remainder of the contest thanks to strong performances from the likes of Max Fiedler (8 pts, 11 reb), Drew Peterson (13 pts, 8 reb, 3 blk) and Quincy Olivari (10 pts, 3 reb).
Head coach Scott Pera called it “probably the most complete game we’ve played on both ends” in his three years at Rice. That’s hard to argue after seeing the team dominate a Penn squad coming off a win over Alabama a few days ago. Not only did the Owls win, they took a double-digit lead and held it for the majority of the contest.
“It’s a big one for us,” Pera said. adding “I’m going to enjoy this for a couple of hours” before Rice hosts Wayland Baptist on Sunday.
Player of the Game
The comeback was unquestionably a team effort, with a host of players stepping up on both sides of the ball. Senior point guard Ako Adams corralled the individual highlights into a continuous stream of successes. He led the way with 17 points, four assists and 31 minutes played, all team highs.
His efforts as a facilitator were critical to the flow of the offense. Equally important was his lack of turnovers. After committing six turnovers in the opener against Arkansas, he had zero against Penn, a feat he’d achieved just twice in his previous 33 games.
“It’s all a mindset,” Adams said, who seemed as locked in as he’d been for a while during the Owls big day. Coach Pera called Adams’ second half sequence, which included two three-pointers and two assists in a string of consecutive possessions, “Maybe the best eight minutes of basketball he’s played since he’s been at Rice.”
Pera credits Adams’ game with a vigorous self-assessment following the Arkansas defeat. Adams, along with the rest of the team, determined to put a complete performance on the court on Saturday. “He was tremendous,” Pera said. “He prepared the right way. He had a great mindset and approach coming in. He played a great game.”
Final Box | Rice wins 80-61 pic.twitter.com/c3TF1iRmoh
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) November 9, 2019
It’ll be a short turn around for Rice basketball. Less than 24 hours after their game against Penn, the Owls host Wayland Baptist on Sunday. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 4:00 p.m. following the conclusion of Rice Volleyball’s Senior Day matchup with Western Kentucky.