Rice basketball hung around against FIU through the first half but caught fire late to claim an important road victory.
For nearly 30 minutes of action, there was hardly any separation on the court between Rice basketball and their Saturday night host, FIU. Even after Rice opened the game on an 8-0 run, FIU quickly gained its footing and brought the game back near level. From that point, the Owls and Panthers were locked in a close game, waiting for someone on either side to pull their team away.
The first crack appeared when Quincy Olivari and Cameron Sheffield made three-pointers on consecutive trips down the court to push the Rice lead to eight points. From there, Rice would slowly pull away, stretching their lead to double-digits. FIU would get back within one score late, but Rice made their free throws and got a clutch steal from Sheffield to seal the game.
Rice knocked down 14 threes in drove on their way to the big road win, but they also took advantage of a notable edge on the boards, outrebounding FIU 37-26 with 11 offensive rebounds in the process.
Final Box | Rice 85 – FIU 78
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 12, 2023
Key takeaway | Gritting out a road win
Rice basketball has six games left in the regular season. Four of those are scheduled to be played at Tudor Fieldhouse. Playing at home doesn’t lessen the strength of a tough opponent, but it undeniably matters in college basketball. The Owls are 10-4 at home this season and 6-5 on the road. It’s also significant considering where Rice is in the standings.
By virtue of their victory over FIU, Rice is fifth in Conference USA. That’s right on the line where the Owls need to be if they’re going to secure a bye in the first round of the conference tournament. Holding steady right where they are right now might be good enough, even if they don’t get any herculean efforts down the stretch.
Rice is a half-game behind Middle Tennesee, who currently sits one spot ahead of Rice in the standings. The Blue Raiders hold the tiebreaker, but a strong push down the stretch might still hold some upward mobility for the Owls. Regardless of what happens in the next three weeks, beating FIU on Saturday enables these hypotheticals to continue.
Up Next: vs UTSA – Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:00 p.m.
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