Both Rice basketball teams were in action against UAB on Saturday. Here’s a brief rundown of how the men and women faired and what’s next for both.
Rice basketball saw their hot streak come to a screeching halt against a short-handed UAB squad, falling at home in a largely uncompetitive fashion.
Rice basketball has been no stranger to a slow start. The Owls have been a hot and cold team all year, relying on their dominant stretches to smooth over some of their less-than-stellar moments. On Saturday, their shooting performance began almost as cold as it possibly could.
Very little went through the hoop for Rice in the first half. They shot 20 percent from the field and made just three of 12 three-point attempts. Leading scorers Quincy Olivari and Travis Evee combined for five total points and nine of the 19 missed shots. On the other side, UAB shot a strong, but not overwhelming 46 percent from the field. At the half, UAB led 33-15 and it felt like it could have been worse.
The second half was much more even, exactly even, actually. Both teams scored 37 points in the second half, but that didn’t matter much for Rice who went into the break already facing a massive deficit. Cameron Sheffield (3-for-7, 12 points) was the only Rice player to score with any sort of consistency as they played out the stretch in what became a crushing defeat against a UAB squad down three key players including its star, Jelly Walker.
Head coach Scott Pera was frank in his postgame comments. “That’s kind of an old-fashioned butt-kicking,” he said.
Final Box | UAB 70 – Rice 52
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 28, 2023
Key takeaway | When it’s bad, it’s bad
Rice basketball has been a really good team this year. At 15-6 overall and 6-4 in conference play, they’ve been objectively one of the better teams in Conference USA. They’ve shown they can hang with just about anyone on the court on any given day, but — and it’s a significant but — when they’re off their game, things can go south quickly.
Here are the margins of defeat in the Owls’ six losses this season:
- 37 – at Pepperdine (Nov. 7)
- 35 – at Middle Tennessee (Nov. 15)
- 6 – at Texas (Dec. 12)
- 6 – at Louisiana Tech (Jan. 5)
- 3 – at Middle Tennessee (Jan. 11)
- 18 – vs UAB
Even some of the better teams in college basketball have an off night. Even in three of their losses (Texas, LA Tech and MTSU) the Owls played relatively well for parts of those games. But when Rice has an off night, they have the propensity to get run out of the gym.
It’s hard to deny head coach Scott Pera has raised this program’s ceiling. In the same breath, games like this one serve as a clear reminder the floor needs to be raised, too. Head coach Scott Pera was effusive in his praise for UAB, but said he couldn’t help but wonder if his team had finally just hit a wall following a run of so many close games.
“We had two bad ones a long time ago,” he said, “But we’ve only had one in a long time. Let’s just hope you’re not asking me this again anytime soon and we rebound from this.”
Up Next: at Louisiana Tech – Thursday, Feb. 2 at 6:00 p.m.
It wasn’t a great shooting day for Rice women’s basketball, but the defense was stellar and propelled the Owls to an important road win.
The early portions of the Rice women’s basketball game against UAB were largely unassuming. The two squads traded minor advantages, swapping out baskets and rebounds and nearly an even rate. UAB outscored Rice 17-15 in the first quarter, then equaled that 17-15 margin in the second frame.
Down by four at the half, Rice still felt very much in the game despite not really getting into a rhythm on the offensive side of the court. The defense had been solid, holding UAB close despite the Blazers shooting 59 percent to the Owls’ 35 percent from the floor in the first half. That was true, right up until UAB threatened to break the game open early in the third quarter.
The Blazers started the third with back-to-back threes, then followed up a Rice layup with two more buckets of their own. Suddenly a four-point UAB lead had ballooned to 12, forcing Rice into catchup mode. Jazzy Owens-Barnett answered with six straight points of her own to give the Owls some life before Rice would go on a 10-2 run to close the quarter deadlocked at 50 points aside.
In the fourth quarter, Rice slammed the door. UAB shot just 27 percent from the field and turned the ball over 10 times — the Blazers ended the day with 24 giveaways — as the Owls began to build a lead of their own. Despite trailing for most of the game, Rice would go on to win by 10.
Final Box | Rice 67 – UAB 57
FINAL | @RiceWBB 67 – UAB 57
Owls roar back from double-digit deficit to win by 10. pic.twitter.com/MrOp6JBghh
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 28, 2023
Key takeaway | Finishing strong
The best 10 minutes of Rice basketball on Saturday were played during the fourth quarter. Rice outscored UAB 17-7 down the stretch and was able to get production from a variety of sources. In the fourth quarter alone they got 13 points from the bench, stole the ball five times and committed just four turnovers. They took care of the basketball and forced UAB to make mistakes.
Rice shot just 33 percent from the floor in the fourth quarter and did not make a three. Yet somehow they were able to reverse a one-point deficit and build a double-digit lead. Even when the offense isn’t clicking, this team showed it still has the tenacity to buckle down and finish games. Good teams can win in a variety of ways and that’s the kind of team the Owls aspire to be.
“Today was about toughness,” head coach Lindsay Edmonds said. “We found a spark and we just kept going and we were tough and we kept battling and we found a way to get a win on the road.”
Up Next: vs Louisiana Tech – Thursday, Feb. 2 at 7:00 p.m.
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