The roller coaster ride of this Rice Basketball continued on Saturday as the Owls climbed to a big lead before falling to South Florida at home.
Roller coasters and the current Rice basketball season have more in common than one might care to admit. Fresh off a blowout loss against SMU, Rice went found itself leading top-seeded South Florida by 13 at halftime. Travis Evee was in the zone. Max Fiedler was controlling the paint. Keanu Dawes delivered a myriad of clutch moments, coming off the bench for the first time this season.
But, as head coach Scott Pera would be the first to say, it’s a 40-minute game. And that roller coaster? For every up, it has a down. The drop coincided with the second half whistle. USF hit five of their first six threes after the break, erasing the Rice advantage and taking their first lead just minutes in the second frame.
USF’s 23-5 second half run quickly erased the Rice lead and turned the game into a dogfight down the stretch. Rice would tie it up at 65-65 with 2:36 remaining in the second half. USF hit one more three to go back in front. Rice was out of baskets. Despite leading for the entirety of the first half and never trailing by more than two possession, Rice fell, again.
“We need to find consistency. Our players have been a roller coaster in their individual performances and our team has been a rollercoaster because of it,” head coach Scott Pera said. “We cannot find a consistent performance across the board from all our guys. That’s been the story.”
Final Box | USF 69 – Rice 65
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) February 10, 2024
Key takeaway | Good, but not good enough
A visibly frustrated Scott Pera sat down for his postgame press conference following his Rice basketball’s drubbing at the hands of SMU. He said all the right things and made promises to do everything he could to get his team prepared for their upcoming game against league-leading South Florida.
And while Pera took full responsibility for that defeat, he made it clear this team wasn’t going anywhere if its leaders, specifically Max Fiedler and Travis Evee, didn’t play better. “We’re not winning in this league if Max and Travis aren’t playing well,” he declared.
For the most part, the Owls’ stars led the way. Fiedler scored three of the Owls’ first four field goals from the floor. Evee followed immediately afterward, scoring seven straight points on his own to give Rice a 10-point lead over the AAC’s top team.
Fiedler finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Evee scored a team-high 20 points. Statistically, it was night and day better from the SMU outing just days ago. But unfortunately for the Owls, the result didn’t change. It was a closer loss, but a loss all the same.
“We knew we had to play better. It didn’t really take anyone to tell us that,” Evee said. “I still don’t think we played our best ball today. We have to find a way to keep playing better.”
Up Next: at Tulsa (Saturday, Feb. 17)
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.