The blue and white-clad Rice basketball squad started red-hot, only to be cooled down by Quentin Grimes and the resilient Houston Cougars.
The crowd was roaring from start to finish at Tudor Fieldhouse on Tuesday night. A fairly even mix of red and blue was hardly ever silent as cross-town rivals Rice basketball and Houston battled it out on the hardwood in front of them.
The home team that came out swinging. Two foul shots from Trey Murphy got things started. He quickly followed those with a pair of three-point bombs to give Rice an 8-0 lead. The Cougars found their success on the boards early, but their rebounding edge only had a marginal impact as Rice kept making shot after shot, after shot… after shot.
Houston cut the Rice lead to two midway through the first half before Rice went on a 13-0 run behind two long three-pointers from Robert Martin. The Cougars battled back, but a Trey Murphy dunk to close out the half gave Rice a 39-32 lead at the break.
The second half was a slugfest. Houston quickly equalized as the teams traded haymakers for the remainder of the contest. When Houston scored, Rice always found an answer. Robert Martin continued on from a strong first half with Drew Peterson surging with several timely shots.
The two sides traded single-digit advantages until the Cougars’ Quentin Grimes caught fire. The Kansas transfer hit four three-pointers in the final six minutes of regulation, turning a close game into an 11-point Houston lead in the final minute. The Owls did the best they could to extend the game with free throws, but Houston prevailed 97-89.
“There’s no moral victories right now in this program anymore,” head coach Scott Pera said following the game. “I thought we played winning basketball for about 34 minutes… we expected to win and we came up short.”
Player of the Game – Drew Peterson
The balance that Rice basketball has exhibited on the court since their opening night loss has been pristine. The usual suspects — Trey Murphy, Robert Martin and Ako Adams — have had big games, but, by and large, the team has worked together as a unit with stunning precision. They’re passing the ball well, finding the open man and making their shots.
Tonight’s game ball, though, goes to Drew Peterson. When Houston made their run in the second half, it was Peterson that fended them off. He was 4-for-4 from three in the second half, finishing the game with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
“I think we win that game more times than not,” Peterson said. Houston had the last word tonight, but the Owls were able to prove to the city, and themselves, they’re here to stay. “This loss shows us more about who we can be,” Robert Martin said. “I think we’re just starting to believe.”
This was the last home game Rice basketball will play in the next four weeks. The Owls’ next set of contests start on Friday, Nov. 22 in the Island of the Bahamas Showcase. They’ll start things off with Milwaukee on Friday at 1:00 p.m., play either Liberty or Morgan State on Saturday. Sunday’s game is TBD.