Rice basketball fought through a slow start, riding Travis Evee’s second half burst to a win over Incarnate Word in the Owls’ School House Mania game.
Things got off to a bit of a bumpy start for Rice basketball in their annual School House Mania game. Playing host to Incarnate Word, the Owls found themselves trailing their visitors in the early minutes. UIW built a five-point lead before Rice finally got its footing.
Near the midpoint of the first, Rice thundered back with a 17-4 run. A deficit turned into a 10-point advantage as all the Owls on the court got involved in the scoring. They moved the ball well and started to knock down open shots, albeit still without much success from three.
Those failures from long range would create an opening for Incarnate Word’s Josiah Hammons who made a pair of long balls to quickly neutralize the Rice advantage. The Owls would go into halftime with just a three-point lead which disappeared entirely on the first UIW possession after the break.
Travis Evee would break the gridlock. The veteran guard connected on a trio of three-pointers in the span of a few possessions, turning a one-score game into another double-digit advantage for Rice. Incarnate Word would chip away down the stretch, but Rice was able to keep their opponents at arm’s length and ride Evee’s hot hand — he scored a game-high 29 points — to a much-needed win.
Evee notched his 1500th career point in that winning effort, becoming just the 10th player in program history to reach that mark. It was the defense, though, that drew some of his most effusive praise.
“I thought the communication on defense was really good today. There weren’t many self-inflicted wounds on defense. We made them make a lot of tough shots,” Evee said. “We made them take one shot, they didn’t get many offensive rebounds today. Our guys are boxing out. We were flying around with energy.”
Final Box | Rice 80 – UIW 57
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) December 13, 2023
Key takeaway | Defense?
Rice hasn’t proven itself to be a team that can play 40 minutes of excellent defensive basketball yet, but Wednesday was an encouraging sign things might be slowly moving in the right direction. While the offense struggled in the early goings, the defense managed to keep this team in the game, something Pera called out almost immediately in his postgame comments.
“I might start chanting defense, defense!” Pera joked. “I think for one of the first times in a long time our defense energized our offense. Whereas in the past, so many times our offense is what got our defense going. I’m happy about that and I think our effort in the second half was outstanding”
Rice held Incarnate Word to 33.9 percent shooting for the game and 24 percent shooting in the second half. The Owls crushed their opponents on the boards after the break, winning that battle 27-12. There have been signs of defensive growth over the past few weeks, but this was one of the better performances we’ve seen from this group so far. Getting a full 40 minutes is the next step.
Up Next: at Northwestern State – Dec. 16 (Sat.)
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