Rice basketball picked a bad day to have a bad day, falling to the last team in the conference standings in front of the Owls’ home crowd on Thursday night.
UTSA has clung to the bottom of the Conference USA standings for the entirety of the season, but they’ve managed to give Rice basketball fits when the two have met on the court. Thursday night in Houston proved no expectation. UTSA shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half to a meager 27 percent for the Owls, who went into the break trailing by four to a team with one conference win.
The shooting slump lingered through the early portions of the second half. Rice was able to climb back within one point in the first five minutes but a later 10-2 UTSA run would put the road team up by 13 points with the clock ticking under 10 minutes to go. In need of a spark, Alem Huseinovic and Quincy Olivari strung together some three-pointers, bringing the game back within range in the final minutes.
That late run proved to be false hope. UTSA responded with a 10-2 run of their own, pushing the lead back to double digits and holding on for the upset. As hard as they tried, Rice just couldn’t break through.
Final Box | UTSA 84 – Rice 79
FINAL | UTSA 84 – @RiceMBB 79 pic.twitter.com/jyfyzl3thx
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 17, 2023
Key takeaway | Bad day to have a bad day
UTSA entered Thursday’s contest on an 11-game losing streak, the longest in school history. With postseason seeding on the line against a struggling squad, the worst team in Conference USA, Rice basketball couldn’t afford to come out flat. Yet that’s exactly what happened. The Owls were able to keep things close for a while, but once UTSA got hot late, the ruse was up.
This was supposed to be the easy game. Head coach Scott Pera was quick to acknowledge the Roadrunners. He said all the right things. But if Rice basketball really wanted to contend for a first round bye in the Conference USA Tournament, this seemed like a much more winnable game on paper.
“We gotta play better. We have to be better defensively. We have to be more ready to play in a better mind space. We can’t worry about all the other stuff,” Pera said, alluding to the standings. “You just got to play better to give ourselves a chance to win. If we don’t play. we’re not going to win and none of that will matter.”
Games aren’t played on paper. Rice basketball is acutely aware of that right now.
Up Next: vs WKU – Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7:00 p.m.
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