Rice basketball was able to hold FAU well under its seasonal scoring average, but couldn’t make their shots when it mattered most, falling to the Owls at home.
In much the same way Alem Huseinovic’s insertion into the everyday starting lineup for Rice basketball has come as a pleasant surprise for the Owls’ on-court production, so too was seeing him hit the opening layup to put Rice ahead of No. 22 FAU and then continue to ensure this clash of Owls was much closer than anyone else might have anticipated.
Rice kept FAU within striking distance throughout a contest most oddsmakers tabbed to be decidedly one-sided, mixing in a stout defensive effort with timely threes from some of the more unlikely candidates. Travie Evee didn’t make a shot from deep. Sam Alajiki had a pair of triples in the first half alone.
Even if the formula was unusual, it worked to a great degree, allowing Rice to keep pace with FAU throughout. That didn’t look like it was going to happen near the midpoint of the second quarter, but with FAU leading by a game-high 14 points, Huseinovic, Anthony Selden and Mehki Mason provided a burst that pushed the margin back down to single digits.
Free throws would play a pivotal role in the finale. FAU made its final 12 shots from the charity stripe, including a perfect 8-0 in the final three minutes. Rice missed its last four, effectively ending any last-chance attempts at a comeback.
Final Box | FAU 69 – Rice 56
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 25, 2024
Key takeaway | Functional defense
Wednesday’s defensive performance was more in line with the one Rice basketball fans were envisioning to start the season. It wasn’t a lockdown, stellar night of defensive execution, but it was an aggressive brand of basketball that forced FAU to make some mistakes and settle for less-than-ideal shots. As a result, Rice held FAU to 15 points under their season average. Three days ago they dropped 112 on UTSA in overtime.
If we’re nitpicking the defense, FAU shot a little below their season average but held a significant margin on the boards. Even still, it was a five-point game in the closing minutes thanks in large part to the defense. The offense and the free throw shooting certainly weren’t doing the team any favors.
No, it was a sub-50 percent free throw shooting performance and an off night from Travis Evee and Keanu Dawes (who combined to go 0-14 from the field) that was more to blame for the Owls’ coming up short than the defense. Strange times, indeed.
Up Next: vs Tulsa (Saturday, Jan. 27)
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