Rice basketball avoided a late collapse against UTSA, holding off a late rally to beat the Roadrunners. It was the Owls’ third straight road win.
After struggling to shoot the ball for weeks, Rice basketball knocked down a trio of three pointers in the first two and a half minutes of their Saturday afternoon contest against UTSA. Staked to a strong start from three, the Owls’ shooting from the rest of the court followed. Rice shot 46 percent from the floor in the first half, all the while keeping UTSA off balance on the other side the court.
By the time halftime arrived Rice had accumulated a double-digit lead. Wary of losing a large lead for the umpteenth time over the last several weeks, the Owls came out of halftime composed and aggressive. Mekhi Mason added to what would become a career day with 10 points in the first six minutes of the half, pushing the Rice lead to as many as 16.
UTSA would rally. Rice would counterpunch. Leading by 15 with five minutes to go, it looked as if Rice was going to avoid a second-half swoon. But rather than play out the final minutes in peace, UTSA would go on a 15-3 run, all-but erasing the Rice lead and getting the game within one score in the final 30 seconds.
Fortunately for the Owls, Anthony Selden would knock down a pair of free throws, getting the Owls’ edge back to four points before UTSA ran out of time.
Rice basketball head coach Scott Pera hit the nail on the head in his postgame remarks following a nail-biting win against UTSA on Saturday afternoon. “If they make the layup, who knows what crazy stuff can happen, especially in this series. What would this series be if something crazy didn’t happen? It’s just been an unbelievable series of close games.”
“I’m just glad we could get out of here with a win,” he said, exhaling after a stressful 40 minutes in San Antonio.
Final Box | Rice 80 – UTSA 76
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 3, 2024
Key takeaway | Mekhi rising
When Quincy Olivari departed for Xavier, it was widely assumed Travis Evee would take over as the Owls’ de facto scorer. Even with some of his struggles, Evee is leading the team with 15.7 points per game. Right behind him? Mekhi Mason, now sitting at 14.7 points per game after a 30-point outburst against the Roadrunners.
Even before his career day, though, Mason was becoming one of the most consistent scorers on this roster. You have to go back to January 3 against Tulane to find the last time he didn’t reach double figures in points (he had nine). He’s only had one game below eight points since Thanksgiving.
Mason is ninth in the American Conference in scoring in league games. He’s become a force all opponents must account for which, in turn, is freeing up Evee and the rest of his teammates for more opportunities.
Up Next: vs SMU (Wednesday, Feb. 7)
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