HOUSTON, Texas -- Rice threw everything it had at Marshall, but in the end, it was not enough, as the Owls fell in a shootout, 94-90, Saturday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Marcus Evans led the Owls with 29 points. Marquez Letcher-Ellis scored a career-high 28 while grabbing six rebounds. Egor Koulechov scored 11 points and Andrew Drone had 10 points and eight rebounds. Max Guercy added six points and a season-high 12 assists, his fourth career double-digit assist game.
"That was a great college basketball game," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "I thought this was, maybe, the best (that) we've played all year long. (Marshall) is a very talented team. They have a lot of weapons. I just think the way we played today that we raised the bar in our program. We put ourselves in position to win a game and beat a team that's first in our conference. I don't think we beat ourselves today, which with a young team we have been doing consistently at times. I thought today we got beat by a better team. They made some plays down the stretch to pull out the win."
James Kelly got things started for Marshall (9-9, 5-0 with a three-pointer. Evans answered with a three of his own, but the Thundering Herd scored eight straight to take an 11-3 lead. Drone then got a dunk and Letcher-Ellis converted a three point play. But, Marshall scored six straight to take its largest lead of the game, 17-8. The Owls (6-12, 1-4) cut the deficit to two on a dunk from Drone and a three and dunk from Letcher-Ellis.
The teams traded baskets but Ryan Taylor scored five straight to push the lead back to seven with 7:30 to play in the half. After Taylor was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, Koulechov made the ensuing free throws. Guercy then found Drone for a dunk and Evans hit a jumper to pull the Owls with 24-23.
Adjin Penava converted a three-point play. Letcher-Ellis hit a jumper, but Burks made two free throws. Evans then made a three and followed by hitting one-of two free throws to tie the game at 29. Burks made a three-pointer, but after Letcher-Ellis made two free throw, Koulechov gave Rice its first lead of the game, 34-32 on a three-pointer with 3:28 to play in the half.
Marshall then scored seven straight, but another three by Koulechov sent the Owls into the break trailing 39-37.
The second half started with two free throws from Kelly, but Koulechov hit a three to get it to one. Browning made a jumper, but Connor Cashaw tied the game with a three-pointer. Browning converted a three-point play, but a layup from Evans followed by one-of-two free throws tied the game at 46 three minutes into the half.
Each team then hit a layup. Kelly made one-of-two free throws, then picked off Evans' pass and hit Taylor for a layup. The teams went back-and-forth over the next minute, but a free throw by Taylor followed by four points from Kelly pushed the Thundering Herd's lead to 60-54 with 12:32 to play.
Letcher-Ellis then scored seven of the next nine points to get the Owls to within 62-61. Burks hit a pair from the line and Drone made a layup to make it a one-point game. But, Marshall hit its next 10 shots over the following 6:49, pushing the lead to 89-81 with 3:17 to play.
Guercy hit a jumper and Letcher-Ellis made one of two from the charity stripe. But, Kelly hit a three to get the lead back to eight with two minutes to play. Guercy found Letcher-Ellis for a dunk, and after Guercy stole the ball from Kelly, he found Cashaw for a layup to pull Rice within 92-88 with 1:39 remaining.
The game stayed that way until Evans made a layup with 13 seconds to play. But, on the ensuing inbounds play, Kelly got behind the Rice defense, and Taylor hit him for a layup to seal the victory.
Added Rhoades, "I'm very proud of our guys. I thought we played with great grit on one day of prep. I thought we executed and did a good job of sharing the ball and attacking them. I thought we played good defense until the middle of the second half when they just got too many consecutive scores.
Rice was 34-of-71 (47.9%) from the field, but was just 9-of-34 (26.5%) from three. Marshall connected on 55.7% (34-of-61) from the floor and 50.0% (11-of-22) from three. The Owls also recorded a season-high 19 assists.
Kelly scored a game-high 32 points for Marshall. Brown had 20 points and Taylor recorded a double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Rice goes back on the road for a two-game swing, beginning next Thursday, January 21, when it travels to Birmingham, Ala., to face conference leader UAB. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and will be nationally-televised by CBS Sports Network.