Rice basketball opened up Conference USA play with back-to-back wins at home against UTSA, their first 2-0 C-USA start since 2007.
It was a wonderful weekend for Rice basketball. The Owls’ cruised to a perfect 2-0 start in conference play, their best start in C-USA action in 14 years. Rice improved to 8-2 on the season with the two wins, their best mark in the opening 10 games under head coach Scott Pera, who picked up his 300th career win on Friday.
The Friday opener was a nailbiter, which ended in exhilarating fashion. Rice trailed 48-42 at halftime and 84-82 in the final five minutes. Both times, the home team rallied. Guard Travis Evee’s eight three-pointers made the difference, propelling the Owls to their first conference win of the season.
They returned to the court for an encore performance on Saturday. This time Rice was in command from start to finish. The Owls lead ballooned to as many as 32 points behind big days from Max Fiedler (8-for-8 field goals for 18 points) and Chris Mullins (20 points, three three-pointers).
“To be up 30 on anybody is really hard in this league,” head coach Scott Pera said in the aftermath. “We just kept churning away.”
That churn and effort were visible from start to finish. Rice has always been a team willing to shoot the three—and they found tremendous success beyond the arc this weekend—but they also proved themselves to be adept when the ball wasn’t in their hands. All in all, it was an impressive weekend for the Owls on the court.
The spacing and situational awareness on this play is outstanding.
Rice is having a great shooting day, but the strong start to conference play is more than just a few more shots falling. The ball movement and shot selection has been top-notch. #GoOwls pic.twitter.com/ZomrLzY0wE
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 2, 2021
Player Spotlight | Travis Evee
There wasn’t much that didn’t go right for guard Travis Evee this weekend. He shot the ball at a blistering pace, draining 10 of 18 three-pointers and leading the team in scoring on Friday with a career-best 36 points. He was the first Owl to reach that total since Patrick Britton scored 40 against East Carolina in 2008.
Evee’s strong start to conference play is doubly impressive given his status entering the fall. An offseason transfer, Rice had to apply for a waiver to get Evee eligible to play this season. The request was approved on November 18, nine days before the team tipped off in their season opener against Incarnate Word. The impact he’s had on the Owls through 10 games cannot be understated.
Stat Corner | First 2-0 start in conference play since 2006-2007
Rice played their first Conference USA basketball games in the 2005-2006 season. They started 2-0 in league play that season, following it up with a 2-0 start the following season, 2006-2007. They won three straight to start C-USA play, the longest opening winning streak for the Owls since joining Conference USA.
That also marked the last time a Rice team had won two consecutive games to begin its conference slate. The strong start positions the Owls for a small slice of history. Two more wins would make this squad the second team to win three-straight C-USA opening games. The Owls travel to UTEP next weekend.
Rice plays their next stint of the league’s newfound doubleheader schedule next Friday/Saturday at UTEP. The Miners are 3-0 at home this season and 5-3 overall. They split their season-opening duet with Southern Miss over the weekend, winning the second of two contests.
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