Rice basketball split a physical home series against Old Dominion, failing to complete a Saturday comeback to secure a sweep.
Head coach Scott Pera knows the identity of this Rice Basketball team and has kept his squad marching to that beat all season long. The Owls’ commitment to shooting high-value shots, particularly the three-ball, was on full display in a home series split against a physical Old Dominion squad.
Rice won the opener going away, leading by double-digits for most of the contest. The gap was created, and widened, by a masterful day from deep by Quincy Olivari. The sophomore guard drilled seven threes, five of which came in the first half to spot the Owls to an early lead. Old Dominion got as close as six points down in the second half before a trio of threes from Payton Moore, Chris Mullins and Evee put the game back out of reach.
Saturday was much more nerve-wracking for both sides. Old Domini0n came out hot, leading Rice through most of the first half and deep into the second frame. Then Rice caught fire, erasing a 12 point deficit in four minutes, riding a 15-2. Ege Havsa and Riley Abercrombie each contributed big shots in the rally.
Rice would retake the lead in the final minutes before a back-and-forth battle that went down to the wire. The Owls had their chance, trailing by one with 78 percent free throw shooter Travis Evee at the line but he missed both shots, leaving Rice without enough time for a last-second heave.
Player Spotlight | Quincy Olivari
Olivari’s 23-point Friday outburst came during his fourth outing of the season in which he hit five or more three pointers. His reputation as one of the team’s best marksman has been cemented in recent weeks. Friday was the second time this season he’d hit seven threes, putting him one short of the program record (eight) matched this very season by teammate Travis Evee.
The growth Olivari has displayed from his freshman year has been staggering. He’s doubled almost all of his per game stats, increasing his points from 6.0 to 16.7, rebounds from 1.7 to 4.8. Most importantly, his three point shooting percentage is 47.8 percent, the best on the team. That’s up from 38.0 percent last year.
Pera said Olivar was limited on Saturday, playing fewer minutes than he usually does. Others like Havsa and Abercrombie stepped up and were productive in his stead.
Stat Corner | Defensive turnaround
In their first game against UTEP the weekend prior to the Old Dominion series, Rice basketball surrendered 101 points. That marked the first time Rice had allowed more than 100 points in a conference game since 2018 against North Texas in Pera’s second season. The Owls haven’t been defensive juggernauts in recent years, but they haven’t been quite that porous.
“Those 101 were coach Pera’s fault” the Owls’ head coach reiterated this weekend. He took responsibility for the gameplan decision in that game and said his team has since reverted to their more traditional schemes. They’ve put a much better foot forward in their next three games.
UTEP scored 68 in the back end of that two game set. Old Dominion scored 59 on Friday and 61 on Saturday. Altogether, that’s an average of 62.7 points allowed in their past three games. The newfound resurgence is more on par, if not better, than the 70.5 points per game Rice was allowing prior to the UTEP series. If the Owls can maintain this disciplined approach they’ll be able to steal a few more games down the stretch.
Rice goes back on the road next weekend to face UAB. The Blazers entered the weekend as the only undefeated team in C-USA play, sweeping a two-game series against Southern Miss while games against North Texas were postponed. UAB won the first game this weekend against Charlotte and dropped the Saturday finale.
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