Both Rice basketball teams were in action against Louisiana Tech. Here’s a brief rundown of how the men and women faired and what’s next for both.
Rice basketball was on the wrong end of 14 lead changes in a back-and-forth affair, falling at home to Louisiana Tech on Thursday.
There was little separation between Rice basketball and Louisiana Tech on Thursday night at Tudor Fieldhouse. From the opening tip until the waning moments of the game, the two teams traded barbs. The Owls led by as many as nine before the Bulldogs powered back to tie the game for the seventh time with just under nine minutes to play in the second half.
Travie Evee and Quincy Olivari, the Owls’ leading scorers, were tremendous, combining for 44 points and eight three-pointers. Evee’s final heave of regulation was tremendous, falling through at the buzzer to force overtime.
Here's the Evee's three to end regulation. Ridiculous.pic.twitter.com/4MKquuBRua
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 6, 2023
Louisiana Tech would connect on 6-of-8 shots in the extra period and both three pointers. Rice came within two points of equalizing, but missed two crucial free throws down the stretch before running out of time.
Final Box | Rice 72 – UTEP 67
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) December 31, 2022
Key takeaway | Defense no longer optional
Rice basketball dubbed itself “Green Light U” last year in reference to their willingness to shoot the ball early and often. That’s been a staple of their game since head coach Scott Pera arrived on campus. It’s been the defensive side that, so far, has been the missing component in the Owls’ arsenal.
No one is going to bang the gavel and declare Rice a defensive juggernaut just yet, but the frequency with which individuals continue to make significant defensive contributions is increasing. Even after an up-and-down first half, they came up big plays in key moments.
“We did make some plays when we had to, yeah, some big ones,” Pera said. “Because these kids are playing hard. They’re trying like heck and they’ve gotten better at a lot of those things.
Cameron Sheffield had two blocks and 11 defensive rebounds. Seryee Lewis forced a kick out pass, then corralled the rebound on the ensuing deep three. Max Fiedler forced a shot clock violation in the final 90 seconds with a strong position in the lane. Little by little, these individual moments are beginning to cascade.
Ultimately though, it was not enough. Rice doesn’t get to OT without some of those big defensive plays, but they’re going to need more of them to finish off games like this.
Up Next: vs Middle Tennessee – Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 7:00 p.m.
Rice women’s basketball never got it in gear on the road, falling to Louisiana Tech in Ruston, falling to 1-3 in conference play.
Aside from a single three from Katelyn Crosthwait and seven points from Ashlee Austin, things got off to a rocky start in Ruston for Rice women’s basketball on Thursday night. Crosthwait and Austin were the only Owls to score in the opening quarter as the team fell behind 20-10 on a meager 26.7 percent shooting from the floor.
Rice chipped away a few points from that double-digit deficit in the second quarter and a few more in the third. After a rough beginning, they trailed Louisiana Tech by five entering the final frame and would have their chance to recover but the shots just weren’t falling. The Owls started 1-for-6 from the field, going over seven minutes without a field goal in the fourth quarter alone.
“We dug a deep hole and even though we fought and won the last three quarters, it was just too much to overcome,” head coach Lindsay Edmonds said.
They were able to extend the game on free throws and get within three in the final seconds, but things never quite clicked and Rice women’s basketball is now 1-3 in conference play.
Final Box | LA Tech 79 – Rice 74
FINAL | LA Tech 79 – @RiceWBB 74.
Owls fall to 1-3 in C-USA play action after 9-0 start. pic.twitter.com/SkyfIgWe3t
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 6, 2023
Key takeaway | Mid season slump is real, but not irreversible
You wouldn’t know it from watching their start to conference play, but this team began the season 9-0 and blazed through a couple of Power 5 programs in-state to get there. It’s been tough sledding ever since.
Unfortunately for the Owls, every game remaining is a conference game and the stakes will continue to raise with each successive contest. Non-conference wins won’t count in their quest for a top seed in the C-USA Tournament. They know that, though. And they’ve shown the ability to course correct before, even within their winning streak.
Oddly enough, this program went through a similar stretch last season. Edmonds sent the team home after an 0-5 start and they came back and finished 8-4 in their final 12 regular season games.
Up Next: at Middle Tennessee – Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 6:00 p.m.
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