It took overtime to get it done, but Rice Basketball sent off its seniors on a high note, topping Southern Miss on Senior Day at Tudor Fieldhouse.
It had been a back-and-forth game from the start with no obvious moments of separation. Rice basketball traded runs with Southern Miss but both teams stayed neck and neck through regulation and beyond. It was always close. Right up until the moment Chris Mullins let a three-point shot fly with just under 90 seconds remaining in overtime.
The three-point shot would dive through the hoop and give Rice a 5-point advantage with time ticking off the clock quickly. From that point, forward Rice made their foul shots and played out the string, but it was Mullins’ triple that afforded the pivotal moment.
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“Fitting. Appropriate. Whatever word you want to use. A four-year warrior. He’ll never forget that shot as long as he lives. I probably won’t either,” head coach Scott Pera said of Mullins’ dagger three, reflecting on a Senior Fight victory. Ten of the Owls’ 13 points in overtime were scored by seniors, snapping a season-long losing streak and rejuvenating the entire roster.
“We needed a win,” Pera admitted.
That win didn’t come easily. Before Rice got to overtime they overcome an eight-point first-half deficit. Every time they came close, Southern Miss found a way to push their advantage up another few points. It wasn’t until a set of three three-pointers by Travis Evee at the midpoint of the second half that Rice would take their first lead in what felt like forever.
Southern Miss would answer. Then Rice volleyed back. The battle was fierce. Rice had the chance to end it in regulation but couldn’t get one more three-ball to fall as the clock expired. That would eventually set up Mullins’ deep bomb, a memorable way for the seniors’ last home game to end.
Player Spotlight | Chris Mullins
A four-year starter, Mullins is the most tenured player on the roster. He was shut out in his last game against Louisiana Tech, going 0-for-4 from the field with no rebounds. On Saturday against Southern Miss he scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and played 40 minutes, the second-most court time he’s gotten in a game all season, behind only a 3OT outing against Evansville in November.
“I can still remember my first game here,” Mullins said as he attempted to take in the emotions of the final home game of his career. “It’s just come full circle. I started off with a win and I ended with a win here. I’m going to have so many memories here. It’s a great feeling.”
Stat Corner | Get to the line
Rice basketball shot 29 free throws. Southern Miss shot eight. One of the major differences in this game was how often Rice was able to get to the charity stripe. Even though they only converted 20 of those chances, good for a modest 69 percent, they still vastly outdid their opponents at the line and made one of their opposing players foul out.
Final Box | Rice 77 – Southern Miss 72
FINAL | @RiceMBB 77 – USM 72
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 27, 2022
Up Next | Full Schedule
Rice basketball will finish out their regular season schedule on the road. Next up is UTEP, who they’ll visit on Mar. 3 for an 8:00 p.m. tilt. Then Rice will finish in San Antonio against UTSA on Mar. 5. at 2:00 p.m. After that, it’s onto the conference tournament which tips off on Mar. 8.
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