Rice basketball led for more than 35 minutes, but couldn’t hold on, falling on the road to South Florida in another heartbreaking loss.
A lot was at stake on Friday night during an otherwise ordinary AAC basketball game. Rice basketball, winless in conference play, was desperate to claw out a victory. South Florida, winners of their last eight straight at home, was looking to climb the league standings and improve to 2-1. The Bulls’ home streak continues as Rice heads with another gut-wrenching loss.
How Rice lost stings the most. The Owls jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the contest, but USF battled back and took the lead midway through the first half, temporarily forcing a reset of sorts in the pace of the game. A 12-0 run from Rice, capped off by a pair of threes from Mekhi Mason ensured the home team would be in catch-up more for much of the night.
Max Fiedler entered halftime with a double-double, changing the entire complexion of how USF could attack the game. His efforts helped the Owls take a nine-point lead into halftime, but nobody was able to pick up the baton in the second half.
A double-digit Rice lead at the 12-minute mark slowly began to dwindle. Despite leading for the vast majority of the game, Rice found themselves deadlocked in a 68-68 ballgame with 2:24 to go. Rice went more than six minutes straight without a field goal down the stretch. USF took the lead and that was that. Despite leading for more than 35 minutes of regulation, the Owls will leave Florida without the win.
Final Box | USF 81 – Rice 73
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 13, 2024
Key takeaway | Spiraling
After falling to UTSA at “home” last weekend, Rice basketball desperately needed to find a way to get a win on the road Friday night. Instead, the Owls fell to 0-3 in the AAC the most rigorous stretches of conference play begins. The hole feels so much deeper.
Rice had rather encouraging performances from Feidler, Evee, Mason and Alem Huseinovic in this game. They nearly conjured some good old-fashioned hope. Instead, the feelings of the sky falling persist and another tough test awaits next time out against Charlotte.
For the first time in weeks, Rice was productive from three and set the tone with their offense. The defense held tough in some key moments and the got Fiedler, their veteran leader in the middle, back on track. They needed a jolt. They got it. They just couldn’t finish. A familiar, painful feeling in a season full of missed opportunities.
Up Next: vs Charlotte (Tuesday, Jan. 16)
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