Rice basketball was unable to hold onto a second half lead, falling in overtime to UTSA in their AAC “home” opener.
Away from home for the first time as “hosts” in an American Conference game, Rice basketball was out of sorts from the start against UTSA. The visiting Roadrunners showed no signs of confusion when it came to finding their shot at Jerabeck Activity and Athletic Center, jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first 10 minutes of the opening half.
When the Owls needed a spark, Travis Evee took charge. He scored three straight layups to get Rice within four. Soon after his first three of the day got Rice within one score. Noah Shelby took the baton from there, knocking down a three-pointer to give Rice its first lead since the 16-minute mark to begin the game. Trailing by as many as 11 points, Rice had battled back and entered halftime with a three-point lead.
Rice was able to take that advantage and push it to double-digits early in the second half. For a moment, it looked as if the Owls had escaped disaster, but those hopes dissipated rapidly. UTSA immediately fired back and turned it into a back and forth game, which eventually found itself in overtime.
UTSA would go on to outscore Rice 12-5 in overtime, handing the Owls a crushing loss and pushing the Owls to the bottom of the AAC standings.
“We didn’t have the end of the game like we needed to handle it,” head coach Scott Pera said. “They made us pay. They got the shot. Those are hard lessons to learn.”
Final Box | UTSA 89 – Rice 82 (OT)
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 6, 2024
Key takeaway | Red Alert
UTSA entered this contest dead last in the American in KenPom, No. 290 in the country. How bad have the Roadrunners been this season? For comparison, they’re more than 60 spots behind the next closest AAC team in those rankings. Unfortunately, that next team is Rice. The Owls entered Saturday at No. 224 and they’re going to drop further after this.
If the result wasn’t scary enough, the company Rice has kept this season should raise concern. If Rice basketball can’t put away UTSA, why should they expect to be competitive in a conference that expects to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament?
The Owls need to circle the wagons and find some answers. The offense, which was meant to be the strength of this team, has yet to click this season. The defense has had spurts of success but isn’t nearly consistent enough to make up for the Owls’ shooting struggles. With conference play looming, Rice is running out of time to make those adjustments. Until proven otherwise, it appears Rice basketball has a long season ahead of them.
Up Next: at USF (Friday, Jan. 12)
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