Both Rice basketball teams were in action against Middle Tennessee. Here’s a brief rundown of how the men and women faired and what’s next for both.
A last-second three-point attempt at the buzzer hit iron as Rice basketball ran out of time for a second-half comeback against MTSU.
Rice basketball arrived ready to play on Wednesday night against MTSU. Things were back and forth for a few minutes before Rice basketball started to click.
Travis Evee knocked down a couple of threes to help spark a 32-12 finish to the first half. The Owls shot the ball well, connecting on 50 percent of their shots from the floor in the first half, but defended even better, holding the Blue Raiders to 10 field goals before the break on 33 percent shooting.
Middle Tennessee would get their sea legs in the second half, cutting a 14-point Rice lead down to a single point with just over nine minutes to play. Then, after some back and forth, they’d take their first lead of the second half with just over five minutes remaining in the contest. Rice had their chances, including a three-point shot at the buzzer, but they ran out of time.
Final Box | MTSU 71 – Rice 68
FINAL | MTSU 71 – @RiceMBB 68
Last second three hits the rim as Owls drop to 2-3 in C-USA play. pic.twitter.com/dhNvSqNUPE
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 12, 2023
Key takeaway | Which team is it going to be?
It was hard to avoid feeling like the sky was falling on Rice basketball through the first eight days of their 2022-2023 season. The Owls opened the season with a 39-point defeat against Pepperdine (a team they handled comfortably last season) and followed it up seven days later with a 35-point loss to Middle Tennessee. The season has just started and things were already a mess.
Since then? Rice is 9-3 with crucial conference wins over WKU and UTEP and a heartbreaking Middle Tennessee team that embarrassed them in Murfeesborro two months ago. Even Wednesday was a tale of two halves. The first half looked like the team that played through most of December. The second half was reminiscent of the November version.
Head coach Scott Pera took the loss hard on himself, calling the team’s second half defense “atrocious” and vowing “I have to do better,” as a string of challenging league games await them.
Guard Quincy Olivari shared the disappointment but was resolute in his focus on moving forward and climb out of their 2-3 conference start. “We can only win one game at a time,” he said. ” We can only focus on the next game ahead.”
Up Next: vs UTEP – Saturday, Jan. 14 at 2:00 p.m.
Rice women’s basketball put together an early push, but fell apart late, getting blown out on the road against Middle Tennessee.
Middle Tennesse made one field goal in the first four and a half minutes of regulation, allowing Rice women’s basketball to build an early 9-3 advantage. After some challenging starts for the Owls, an early lead felt meaningful, but it quickly disappeared. They ended the quarter trailing by three and were outscored by the same 16-16 margin in the second quarter, too.
Trailing by six at halftime, things started going further south until — as the broadcast put it — “the wheels came off.” Rice was outscored 53-30 in the second half. Leading players Malia Fisher and Ashlee Austin each fouled out. The team shot 32.7 percent from the field in the game and allowed MTSU to shoot 51.6 percent. Rice missed nine free throws. It wasn’t a good night.
Final Box | MTSU 85 – Rice 56
FINAL | MTSU 85 – @RiceWBB 56
Owls fall to 1-4 in C-USA play after 9-0 start. pic.twitter.com/n0Gve9DeQO
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 12, 2023
Key takeaway | Something isn’t right
For the fourth time in their last five games, Rice women’s basketball has lost. They’ve also allowed 74 points or more in all four of those losses, a scoring threshold they’d allowed opponents to pass just twice in their first eight games that didn’t reach overtime. The defense hasn’t been stellar in recent weeks.
But that’s not the only cause for concern. Rice scored at least 76 points in their first six games of the season, only failing to reach that mark three times in the non-conference play, against Texas A&M, TCU and Sam Houston (all wins). In five conference games, Rice has scored 76 points zero times.
There haven’t been significant changes to player availability. They aren’t playing teams that are drastically more talented than they are. But something isn’t working. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and figure it out, beginning with a win against UTEP on Saturday.
Up Next: at UTEP – Saturday, Jan. 14 at 1:00 p.m.
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