Rice basketball started strong but was unable to rally from a first-half deficit, falling to North Texas at Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday.
Saturday night’s rematch between Rice basketball and North Texas had all the makings of a thrilling affair right up until Max Fiedler temporarily halted the contest with a dunk that turned off the shot clock. After some deliberation, the opposite shot clock was turned off and the game resumed, complete with a 10-second countdown from the PA announcer to simulate the clock that was no longer illuminated.
North Texas was unphased. Rice looked flustered. Rice led by two when the clock turned off. North Texas responded with a 16-2 run, ultimately outscoring Rice 21-8 in the remainder of the half.
“I think that we kinda stopped communicating a little bit and lapsed on defense for a few minutes,” guard Travis Evee said of the technical interruption caused by the clock, which was restored to order before the start of the second half.
With the clock restored, Rice opened the half on a 13-6 run, cutting the North Texas lead to three. That was as close as they were able to get. Rice managed to shoot reasonably well (48.1 percent in the second half, 47.1 percent for the game) but was unable to retake the lead. “They had to deal with it too,” head coach Scott Pera said. “They dealt with it better than us.”
Rice entered Saturday as one of the best free throw shooting teams in the conference but would miss five in a row in the second half including the front end of a double-double twice in that span. They shot 55.6 percent on the night, nearly 20 points worse than their season average.
“To win these games, you’ve got to play your A-game. In this league, if you don’t play your A-game you’re not going to win, especially against North Texas,” Pera said. “We played about our C-plus team, and that’s not enough.”
Final Box | North Texas 74 – Rice 64
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 5, 2023
Key takeaway | Eliminating the lulls
Aside from a blowout loss to UAB, Rice basketball has been in a close ball game late in the second half just about every time they’ve taken the court. It’s impossible for each of the games to break the right way, but it certainly feels like the bounces haven’t favored the Owls this weekend.
On Thursday, Rice trailed by 24 against Louisiana Tech before falling to take the lead late, before losing by eight. The deficit didn’t get quite that big on Saturday against North Texas, but Rice had their chances to turn a 13-point deficit into a single-shot affair, they were unable to do so, primarily because of an ice-cold 0-for-5 streak at the free throw line in the middle of the second half.
If Rice can find a way to avoid falling behind by double-digits with regularity, some of these nailbiters might just turn into less stressful wins. Perfection isn’t a realistic expectation, but finding a way to maintain 40 minutes of competitive play has to be a focal point because the tough stretches have made even the competitive games feel like they require Herculean efforts to win, resulting in losses like this.
Up Next: at Florida Atlantic – Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6:00 p.m.
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.