Rice basketball played a great first half before all but disappearing after the break, falling to Western Kentucky on the road on Thursday night.
A tale of two halves might not even do true justice to just how disparate the two periods Rice basketball played against Western Kentucky on the road Thursday night. The Owls came out white-hot, converting on 51.5 percent of their shots from the field while draining seven threes. Then the bottom dropped out. Rice shot 29.6 percent in the second half and added just one triple to their eventual modest totals.
The Owls opponents actually shot worse from the floor in the second half than they had in the first. Where they found their edge was the charity stripe. Western Kentucky was 17-of-22 from the free throw line. Rice was 8-for-11. The Owls would go on to lose by nine.
Last Time Out : Rice Basketball pulls off thrilling upset of UAB at home
It’s not as if fouls determined this game, though. Rice basketball just wasn’t nearly as crisp after the halftime buzzer. Whether it was the right halftime adjustments made by Western Kentucky or a bad shooting slump for Rice — or both — the results were the same. A game that looked winnable at halftime slipped away.
The loss snuffs a short two-game winning streak that included perhaps the most impactful victory of head coach Scott Pera’s tenure at Rice, a home win over UAB. The Owls fall to 2-2 in Conference USA play.
Player Spotlight | Chris Mullins
Mullis has developed into a jack-of-all-trades for Rice basketball over the course of his career. Always known for his superb defensive ability, he added some well-timed buckets against the Hilltoppers. He tossed in a three-pointer to start off the second half on his way to a tie for the team-high in scoring with 13 points. He also added two rebounds and a steal.
Stat Corner | Don’t get dunked
Western Kentucky dunked seven times against Rice and scored 32 total points in the paint. 18 of those points came after halftime. They were a large part of what allowed Western Kentucky to run away with the game in the second half. The home team came out of the break on a 13-5 run. Six of those points came directly from dunks, the highest percentage shot you can take. Just three of them came from threes.
Three-pointers would help Western Kentucky maintain the lead down the stretch, but getting beat inside is what allowed the gap to manifest in the first place. The shots won’t fall every night. When they don’t, preventing easy buckets has to climb atop the priority list. Rice basketball didn’t do that very well on Thursday.
Final Box | WKU 80 – Rice 66
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 14, 2022
Up Next | Full Schedule
Rice basketball closes out their brief road trip on Saturday with a visit to Marshall. The Owls bested the Thundering Herd in the Conference USA Tournament the last time these two squads met. After that they’ll return home for games against Old Dominion and Charlotte.