Rice basketball rebounded from a tough road trip with a lopsided home victory over UT Martin, capped off by a record-setting shot from Travis Evee.
Returning home from a disappointing road trip, Rice basketball reentered Tudor Field house in need of a jolt. It had been a minute since the Owls started a game with superb play on both sides of the court. They did just that in their homecoming after their recent road trip, roaring out to a 34-13 first half lead against UT Martin in just over 11 minutes of action.
Rice shot the ball incredibly well and defended with gusto. UT Martin converted just five of their first 17 shots from the field. Rice went 14-for-22. Everything was coming up Owls in a game that had all the makings of a romp.
The blowout was averted late in the first half when UT Martin was gifted too many open looks from three and converted four long range shots in the final nine minutes, slashing the sizable Rice advantage to 10 points at the break.
The lead shrunk to nine points in the opening moments of the second half before the Owls exploded with a 14-0 run to blow the game wide open. And if the 23-point advantage wasn’t enough, Travie Evee delivered the exclamation point with his 253th career three, a program record.
— J.P. Heath (@RiceOwlsVoice) December 1, 2023
“It’s a heck of an accomplishment. Not only is he breaking it now, he’s about to put a lot of separation between him and whoever is going to try and beat him next,” head coach Scott Pera said. “It’s really cool.”
The bounce-back win won’t fix all woes, but it did provide this team with momentum and belief they desperately needed to be restored. Perhaps what happened in Vegas will stay in Vegas after all. This rejuvenated version of Rice basketball was decidedly more effective.
“Tonight was the first time Rice basketball played like we think we’re capable of,” Pera said with a sigh of relief. “I’m proud of the guys.”
Final Box | Rice 98 – UT Martin 78
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) December 1, 2023
What They’re Saying
“I thought for first time all year we executed the game plan defensive to the best of our ability and it made a huge difference… we played team defense. We rebounded. We held them to 40 percent shooting. They’re a very good team. They’re going to win 20 games. They’re going to compete for their league title. I’m just really proud of our guys” – Head coach Scott Pera
Key takeaway | Keep tinkering
Through seven games, Rice basketball has yet to settle into a consistent starting five. Considering how head coach Scott Pera has operated in the past, that’s somewhat unexpected. Part of the reason for the lack of consistency in the lineups has been a lack of production in the games. If the same five had been played at a high level, there would be no need for the changeups, instead the Owls press on.
Thursday’s newest wrinkle was the insertion of Alem Husenivoc into the starting lineup for his first start this season. He delivered with a season-high 11 points on a season-high 26 minutes played.
“Alem has done a terrific job of growing into a leader, being all about the right things. This was an easy decision actually, for me, because he is deserving of starting,” Pera said.
Whether Husenovic sticks in the starting five remains to be seen. Pera noted he challenges all of his guys to earn that spot and play well enough to keep it. No matter the rotation, though, Rice found something tonight that worked. With no set return date for forward Cam Sheffield, they’ll need to continue to find a way to gel with the pieces they do have on the court. Thursday was evidence the ceiling can be pretty high.
Up Next: vs Houston Christian – Dec. 2 (Sat.)
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