Alem Huseinovic’s huge night was not enough to keep pace with a furious SMU attack as Rice basketball remains winless at home in AAC play.
SMU started the scoring at Tudor Fieldhouse and did not stop, shooting better than 50 percent in the first half against Rice basketball. With defense unable to keep the Mustangs at bay, the Owls turned to Alem Huseinvoic, who delivered a monster night including a series of big threes to keep pace with the visitors for as long as possible.
Huseinvoic helped push Rice to a nine-point advantage in the final minutes before halftime and scored the only Rice basket in the next eight minutes of court time spanning the final four 3:48 of the first half and the first 4:17 to the second frame. In between SMU outscored Rice by a staggering 29-4 margin.
“At 35-26, I thought, alright, this is going to be a ball game. We’re going to have a chance to win this thing. I could not have been more wrong.”
Things didn’t really get sideways until the opening minutes of the second half when a 15-0 SMU run sent Rice spiraling. Outside of Huseinovic, the Rice offense was spotty at best. Mekhi Mason, fresh off a career day against UTSA, was quiet, scoring just eight points. Travis Evee was 0-for-5 from three. As a result, the Rice deficit would only continue to balloon.
Pera was almost at a loss for words in the aftermath. “I wouldn’t be this upset if I didn’t know it was in there. If I didn’t know what this team is capable of. If I didn’t know how much these kids cared. If I didn’t know how much they really want to win then I wouldn’t be this upset.”
SMU led by as many as 29 points, closing out the game with ease and sending Rice to their seventh consecutive defeat at home in conference play. All three of the Owls’ AAC victories thus far have come on the road.
Final Box | SMU 95 – Rice 69
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 8, 2024
Key takeaway | Inconsistency from Top to Bottom
Travis Evee and Max Fiedler are the heart and soul of this basketball team. The veteran leaders combined to score 18 points and grab seven boards against SMU on Wednesday night. Either of them is capable of reaching those totals themself, and it wouldn’t require all that unusual of a performance to get there.
“We’re not winning in this league if Max and Travis aren’t playing well,” Pera said point-blank. “Our room for error here isn’t large.”
Rice basketball didn’t lose the game solely because their vets had off nights, but the inconsistency from the top down points toward a lingering problem for this team as a whole. They’re hot and cold to an extreme. At their best, they can take down Memphis and go toe-to-toe with FAU. Both of those teams have been in the Top 25 this season. But when things aren’t clicking it can get messy. Fast.
With another crucial home game looming against South Florida, Pera took full responsibility on Wednesday night “I am not deflecting blame. This is on me,” he said. “This is my responsibility. I am going to hold myself accountable and my staff. We are going to dissect the tape, watch the first USF game and find ways to help these kids be better.”
Up Next: vs USF (Saturday, Feb. 10)
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