CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Seth Gearhart and Max Guercy scored five points apiece in overtime to lead Rice University men's basketball to a thrilling 73-68 win at Charlotte on Saturday evening at Halton Arena.
The Owls rallied back from six points down while holding the 49ers scoreless in the final three and a half minutes of regulation to force the extra period. Rice never trailed in overtime and connected on 4-of-5 shots from the field and all four free throw attempts down the stretch to hold off the 49ers.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, "This was just a great college basketball game. It was neat to come down to a couple possessions in regulation and a couple possessions in overtime. We've been playing pretty well, but just not finding ways to win. We've been putting ourselves in position and today was a game where we finally got over the hump and I really like the resolve of our team. We had a lot of guys played a lot of minutes and we were a little outmanned at times, but we had some fight in us. I'm really proud of our team, especially our seniors."
Gearhart scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime as he knocked down 5-of-10 attempts with three treys to accompany five rebounds while battling foul trouble. Guercy scored just two of his seven points in regulation but came up huge for the Owls with a go-ahead three-pointer with just 30 seconds remaining in overtime. The junior then closed out the game with a pair of free throws with 13 ticks on the clock.
Marcus Jackson scored 14 of his team-leading 20 points in the first half as he knocked down four three-pointers and 7-of-14 shots from the field on the night. The sophomore added five assists for a second-straight game and hauled in five rebounds in 39 minutes of action.
Bishop Mency played 43 minutes for Rice and posted his first double-figure scoring performance of the Conference USA slate with 13 points. The freshman sank 5-of-11 shots and three of the Owls' 12 three-pointers and he hauled in four rebounds. Andrew Drone added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Overall, Rice shot 48.1 percent from the field, 12-of-34 from downtown and 11-of-13 from the foul line. The squad scored 15 points off of 12 Charlotte turnovers, with all of the points coming in the opening 20 minutes.
Rice jumped out to an early lead, sinking five of its first seven field goal attempts. The Owls then kept the pressure on by knocking down seven three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes and extended its lead to as many as 12 points at 28-16. The 49ers then rallied back to within 33-26 at the intermission.
The second half start was a complete flip as Charlotte opened on a 12-3 run to take its first lead since the opening minutes of the contest. After falling behind by six, the Owls rallied to regain an advantage with fewer than eight minutes to play. The lead was short-lived, however, as the 49ers responded with seven-straight points over the next three minutes. Rice trailed, 59-53, before Gearhart scored the Owls' next six points to pull even and get the game to overtime.
The 49ers owned a slight 34-33 edge in rebounding and shot 43.5 percent from the field, led by Willie Clayton's 7-of-7 mark for 15 points. The home team swiped 10 steals and forced 16 Rice turnovers for 19 points, including 15 fast-break points. The Owls return home to host Southern Miss on Thursday, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m.
NOTES: Rice's seven first-half three-pointers tied the team's season high (Jan. 10 vs. North Texas) ... the 12 three-pointers in the game matched a season high for the third time in the last four games ... Jackson has led the Owls in scoring in all five C-USA games this season.