DENTON, Texas -- Marcus Evans scored a game-high 26 points, but it was not enough as Rice fell, 85-74, at North Texas, Saturday afternoon at the Super Pit.
Evans also had six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Connor Cashaw tied a season-high with 16 points. Max Guercy and Egor Koulechov had 13 points apiece, while Koulechov added a team-high nine rebounds.
North Texas (7-9, 2-1 C-USA) got an early jump on Rice when Eric Katenda made a pair of baskets. Evans converted a three-point play and Koulechov made a pair of free throws to give the Owls a 5-4 lead, 3:14 into the game.
However, Rice (5-11, 0-3) missed eight straight shots as the Mean Green went on a 9-0 run over the next 2:47 to take a 13-5 lead. Evans stopped the run with a three-pointer. Koulechov cut the deficit to three with two more free throws but North Texas went on an 11-0 run to grab a 24-10 advantage. After Guercy drilled a three, North Texas scored seven straight points to take its largest lead of the half, 31-13, with 4:17 to play.
Rice got back into it late in the half, Cashaw hit a jumper and then Evans picked off J-Mychal Reese, got a layup and converted a three-point play. Cashaw then made a three-pointer, and made one free throw to get Rice to within 31-22. But, a dunk from Jeremy Combs sent Rice into halftime down 33-22.
"We had a really good week of practice, so that first half was disappointing," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "A couple shots didn't go our way, and we were just trying to hang in there and keep it close. We were trying to get the half over with, regroup, and come back in the second half. We scored 52 points in the second half, but we gave up 52. It's disappointing."
The teams traded three-pointers to open the second half. North Texas then hit two straight threes to push the lead to 15. After the teams traded baskets, Cashaw hit a jumper. But, UNT went on a 13-2 run to take its largest lead of the game, 57-35, with 12 minutes to play.
Rice scored six straight points, but Katenda converted a three-point play. After a dunk from Marquez Letcher-Ellis, North Texas pushed the lead back to 24 points. Rice got jumpers from Letcher-Ellis and Cashaw before Jeremy Combs hit a pair of free throws. Three-pointers from Evans, Cashaw and Guercy sent Rice on a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 69-54 with 4:26 to play.
The teams traded free throws before Guercy found Koulechov for a layup. Greg White-Pittman made one-of-two from the line, but Rice scored six straight points to pull within 71-63 with 2:21 remaining. But, the Owls would get no closer.
Rice shot just 40.7% (24-of-59) from the field and 33.3% (8-of-24) from three. North Texas connected on 51.8% (29-of-56) from the floor and 6-of-16 (37.5%) from three. Rice was also 18-of-21 from the charity stripe.
Rice opens its conference home schedule next Thursday, January 14, when it hosts Western Kentucky. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and will be televised by ASN.