HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball cut a double-figure deficit to just three points with possession of the ball in the waning seconds of regulation, but the Owls were unable to put up a tying shot attempt in a 66-63 setback to North Texas on Saturday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Marcus Jackson sank his fourth three-pointer of the day with 15 seconds left to pull Rice within four points and, after a Mean Green free throw, drove the length of the court for a layup to pull his squad within one possession with six seconds on the clock.
The Owls immediately fouled on the inbounds pass and the NT player missed both free throw attempts. Rice grabbed the rebound with just over five seconds on the clock and advanced the ball to the front court, but the clock expired before a final attempt could be hoisted.
Jackson led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting and 4-of-4 free throws. The sophomore added six rebounds and five assists without a turnover in 34 minutes of action. He has eclipsed the 20-point mark in all three Conference USA games this season. Jackson closed out the first half with a highlight-reel worthy shot as he banked in a three-quarter court attempt at the buzzer for the Owls.
After the game, head coach Mike Rhoades said, "We've got to do a better job attacking a zone defense. We didn't do that today, which was disappointing because we've been really good at attacking in the last three or four games. We just weren't aggressive today and we didn't get after it. That starts with me and goes down the list, but it was unacceptable and we've got to get better. Our guys are going to fight and do the best they can do down the stretch, but we can't put ourselves in a hole and turn the ball over 20 times against a zone."
The Owls owned a 37-31 rebounding advantage, but Rice's 20 turnovers turned into 23 Mean Green points on the other end, including eight fast break points. North Texas also held a 34-12 advantage on points in the paint.
The Owls knocked down 12 three-pointers with an overall 39.6 field goal percentage and passed around 14 assists on 19 baskets. North Texas connected on 12-of-20 attempts from the field in the second half and 50 percent in the game. Rice sank 13-of-18 free throws compared to 12-of-28 for the visitors.
Andrew Drone set a new career high with 11 rebounds in the game. He added six points on 2-of-3 shooting with a pair of assists in 29 minutes of action. Max Guercy tallied 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting with three treys and a 4-of-4 mark at the foul line to bump his league-leading free throw percentage up to 88.9 percent on the season.
Seth Gearhart battled foul trouble throughout the second half as he picked up his third and fourth fouls within the first four minutes of the frame. He connected on 3-of-6 shot attempts for 11 points with three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Rice heads out on the road for a pair of C-USA games next weekend, beginning Thursday, Jan. 15, at No. 25 Old Dominion. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. in Norfolk, Va. From there, the Owls travel to face Charlotte on Saturday, Jan. 17.
NOTES: Each of the last eight meetings between Rice and North Texas has been decided by five points or less.