Conference USA Opener Spoiled by FIU
Panthers claim 71-60 down the stretch
Jan. 9, 2014
HOUSTON, Texas – In a game that saw nine ties and 16 lead changes, Rice University men’s basketball fell to Conference USA newcomer FIU in the waning minutes of the league opener for both teams, 71-60, at Tudor Fieldhouse on Thursday.
The Owls (5-9, 0-1 C-USA) shook off a slow start and a miniscule halftime deficit to lead a bulk of the second half’s first 15 minutes before the visitors claimed the advantage for good and hold Rice scoreless in the final minutes for the win.
Austin Ramljak led Rice with 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers. The senior added a pair of rebounds and an assist in the game.
Rice’s bench put together a strong effort with 22 points, led by nine from freshman Andrew Drone. The post player sank 4-of-6 shots and matched a season high with five rebounds to accompany an assist and a block.
Classmate Drew Bender scored eight points for a second-straight game in his first C-USA action, including 4-of-9 shooting, four rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Nizar Kapic rounded out the reserves’ offensive production with five points while Ross Wilson pulled down two rebounds in 11 minutes of action.
FIU’s (9-7, 1-0) Tymell Murphy notched 20 of his 22 points in the second half to lead the Panthers. He added a game-high 15 rebounds as FIU claimed a narrow 37-34 advantage in rebounds. Dennis Mavin also scored in double figures with 16 points to accompany nine rebounds.
The Panthers shot 50 percent from the field compared to 38.6 percent for Rice. The Owls knocked down 7-of-24 three-pointers and converted 9-of-16 free throws. FIU shot 13-of-19 from the stripe.
Max Guercy distributed five of the Owls’ 12 assists and the team turned the ball over a season-low six times on the night. Sean Obi led the home team with eight rebounds and chipped in seven points with a block in 23 minutes. Seth Gearhart added eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, as well as two assists and a rebound.
FIU shot out of the gate in the first half with a 7-0 run before the Owls found their footing. Rice’s first 10 shots in the game all came from beyond the arc, as the team sank four three-pointers to tie the contest at 12 points apiece. The Owls used the momentum to claim a lead as large as six points in the opening frame, but FIU rallied before the half to take a 33-32 advantage into the locker room.
The Owls close out the home stand on Saturday against Florida Atlantic. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. against the league’s ‘other’ Owls at Tudor Fieldhouse.
NOTES: Freshman guard Marcus Jackson missed a second-straight game with a hip injury … Rice held FIU just below its season scoring average, marking the fifth-straight game the Owls’ defense has accomplished the feat … FIU converted Rice’s six turnovers into 12 points … Rice scored 10 second-chance points off of nine offensive rebounds.