A 20-point first half lead would not be enough for Rice basketball, which fell to 0-4 in AAC play with an overtime loss to Charlotte.
The fireworks got underway early at Tudor Fieldhouse in a game that felt very much like a must-win contest for Rice basketball against the visiting Charlotte 49ers. After allowing a layup that put Charlotte in front, Rice exploded on a 24-2 run over the next eight minutes, fueled by a flurry of three-pointers by four different Owls.
Rather than play catch up, as this team has had to do in recent games, an early 20-point advantage would force the Owls to hang on. It probably should come as no surprise at this point that the task proved easier said than done. Even that lopsided lead was short-lived. Charlotte rattled off 13 straight points to make it a seven-point game and the game was back on.
Rice led by eight points at halftime and watched their edge slowly dwindle until Charlotte took the lead once more with 11:07 left in the second half. From there, the tug of war resumed. Neither side led by more than three points for the remainder of regulation. Rice had its chances via several missed Charlotte free throws but could not get the decisive shot to fall.
Altogether, there were seven ties as the drama continued to rise and overtime arrived. The Owls scored first in the extra period, but a 7-0 Charlotte run proved too much to overcome. Evee’s last ditch effort to miss a free throw and attempt a contested shot at the buzzer was met with silence from the officials as Rice dropped their fourth straight AAC game.
Final Box | Charlotte 81 – Rice 79 (OT)
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 17, 2024
Key takeaway | Shooting stroke
An inability to shoot the three has gotten Rice basketball into plenty of trouble this season. The Owls came into this game shooting just 31 percent from distance, a far cry from the standard head coach Scott Pera has established for the program under his watch. On Tuesday, though, Rice looked more comfortable on offense than they had in quite some time.
Rice made 10 threes for just the fourth time this season. For reference, that’s a feat Rice achieved in their fifth game last year. This was game 17.
Defense was hit or miss. The officiating did the Owls no favors. The team itself missed way too many opportunities down the stretch. Better three point shooting isn’t going to turn this into a great basketball team overnight, but this team isn’t going to be competitive without the three ball. After shooting .500 against USF and 45.5 percent against Charlotte, Rice finally has something that’s working.
Unfortunately for Pera and this team, they’re running out of time. As the Owls miss chance after chance their deficit grows. Rice is seven games below .500 and 0-4 in conference play. It’s going to take more than a couple of threes to turn this ship around.
Up Next: at Temple (Saturday, Jan. 20)
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