Rice basketball dropped both games of the home-and-away series against North Texas, succumbing to the tenacious Mean Green defense.
Rice basketball seems to always find a way to play things close against North Texas. The Owls’ kicked off a strong start to the backend of Conference USA action with an upset win over the Mean Green last season. Each of the 2021 meetings delivered its fair share of thrill.
The Owls looked composed and ready from the start, even without Chris Mullins or Ege Havsa available for the series. The reinsertion of Travis Evee to the lineup and the steadying presence of Max Fiedler enabled Rice to take a 37-36 lead into halftime of the first game.
Both teams would trade baskets, setting up a critical stretch in the final minutes. Quincy Olivari made three free throws to make it a one-point game in favor of North Texas. Then the Mean Green buckled down and made key shots down the stretch while Rice came up just short. Rice tried to extend the game with fouls, but Javion Hamlet was almost automatic from the stripe, helping boost him to a career-best 30-point performance.
Fiedler paced Rice out of the gates in the second game with a 4-for-4 start from the field, but the North Texas defense was suffocating. Rice attempted just six three point attempts in the first half, making one, as they fell behind 34-23. Rice would shoot 3-for-17 from three and fall 79-53.
Player Spotlight | Travis Evee
Evee wasn’t available when Rice played at UAB in the previous series and his absence was felt. The Rice shooting attack is best when the Owls have options on the outside and don’t have to rely on any one man to shoot lights out on any given night. That said, Evee has shown a propensity to be the guy that gets hot and stays hot.
Evee scored 21 points in the Friday opener and nine in the Sunday finale. He led the team in three point shots made (four) and threes attempted (10). He also added a perfect 6-for-6 line from the charity stripe. He was consistent and effective, despite playing 70 of 80 possible minutes.
Stat Corner | All about the boards
Rice basketball is 7-2 this season when they outrebound their opponents. When the Owls lose the rebounding battle, they’re 3-6. It’s somewhat of a conventional basketball truism, but it rings especially true for the Owls, who typically employ a large volume of shots from deep. The effectiveness of the three point shot is amplified by the additional opportunities on the offensive glass and by turning opponents away on the other side of the court.
Rice had five offensive rebounds on Friday and was outrebounded 31-26 overall. They lost the rebound battle on Sunday as well, 34-27. Not getting those extra opportunities, combined with the unwavering North Texas defense would prove too much to overcome.
Next weekend should trend back toward normal when the Owls trade a Friday/Sunday multi-city series for a Friday/Saturday pair of matches. Assuming no interruptions, Rice will play two home games against Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have lost four consecutive games and are last in the West standings with a 3-7 conference record. Look for a mid-conference update on the Owls for our Patreon subscribers on Monday.
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