HOUSTON, Texas -- Rice closed the game on a 21-3 run to rally from a 13-point second half deficit and win, 83-73, over WKU, Thursday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Owls (6-11, 1-3 C-USA).
Connor Cashaw and Marquez Letcher-Ellis both scored a career-high 20 points. Cashaw also had six rebounds and Letcher-Ellis pulled down five. Marcus Evans scored 16 points, all in the second half, and had five assists, and Egor Koulechov added 10 points and a team-high seven boards.
"I'm just really proud of our effort," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "The way we started the second half, I was really nervous. I thought `Here we go again.' I thought our guys showed great resolve. It was a good job responding to adversity. Sometimes in the first half and the beginning of the second half, we went inward. We've got to be about our teammates. We did a good job recovering and figuring it out. It was good to see these young guys experience this and be a part of what went down, down the stretch."
Rice trailed 35-34 at the half. However, WKU (9-8, 1-3) began the second half on a 14-2 run to open up its largest lead of the game, 49-36, 3:06 into the second stanza. But, Cashaw and Evans scored 10 straight points over the next 2:15 to get Rice to within 49-46.
Chris Harrison-Docks hit a three to push the lead to six, but a three-point play by Letcher-Ellis, followed by a pair of free throws by Evans got Rice to within 52-51. The teams traded baskets before a three by Nigel Snipes and a layup from Marlon Hunter pushed the lead to six.
Evans hit a three, but Hunter followed with a jumper. Letcher-Ellis made one-of-two free throws, but WKU scored four straight to push the lead to 65-57 with 9:12 to play. The game remained between six and eight points over the next 2:34. With the Hilltoppers leading 70-62 with 6:38 to play, Koulechov made one-of-two free throws. Anton Waters turned it over and Max Guercy hit a floater to cut the deficit to five.
Snipes then turned it over and fouled Bishop Mency, who hit one-of-two free throws. The game remained a four-point deficit for the next 1:25. Evans drove the lane and found Cashaw for a jumper. After Snipes missed a three, Evans came down and drilled a pull-up three to give Rice a 71-70 lead with 2:51 to play, its first lead since the a minute left in first half.
Following a WKU turnover, Evans made a pair from the line. Johnson hit a layup to cut the deficit to 73-72. After Letcher-Ellis then converted a three-point play, Aaron Cosby made one-of-two free throws to pull within 75-73 with 1:13 remaining.
Letcher-Ellis then made two free throws. Guercy then stripped Cosby and was fouled. The Owls made six straight free throws to close the game.
WKU scored 17 second chance points on 21 offensive rebounds, but Rice scored 22 points off of 17 Hilltopper turnovers. The Owls also got 29 points from their bench.
Rice connected on 50.0% (25-of-50) from the floor and 39.1% (9-of-23) from three. WKU was just 28-of-68 (41.2%) from the field and 7-of-22 (31.8%).Rice also connected on 24-of-32 (75.0%) from the charity stripe.
Rice closes its homestand this Saturday, January 16, when it hosts Marshall. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be televised by ASN.