HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Quinton Campbell's full-length court attempt to tie the game bounced off the back of the rim and Rice held on for a 61-58 win at Southern Miss, Saturday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.
"We really guarded well in the first half," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "I was really excited and proud of our guys. But then we got the lead and relaxed. We haven't really played with big leads, especially on the road. When you get them, you have to put teams away. You can't get mentally soft and turn the ball over. We did a great job in the first half of not turning it over. But in the second half, shots weren't falling. But, it's a road win. To split on this trip after Thursday, I'm really proud of how we executed down the stretch."
Rice led 34-16 at the half after Koulechov banked in a three from half court as time expired. Connor Cashaw started the second half off with a three. Campbell made a jumper, but Koulechov hit a layup and then hit Evans for a three for Rice's largest lead of the game, 42-18. Southern Miss scored five straight points before Lott converted a three-point play.
Eddie Davis hit a three and Koulechov followed with two free throws for a 47-26 Rice lead with 11:36 to play. That's when the Golden Eagles started to chip away at the deficit.
USM went on a 10-0 run over the next 3:08 to cut the deficit to 11. After the teams traded baskets, Cashaw hit a pair of free throws and Evans made one-of-two to push the lead to 52-38. Robert Thomas made two straight baskets and Cortez Edward split a pair of free throws before Evans drove in for a layup.
Davis then scored five straight points to pull within 54-48 with 2:40 to play. Evans made one-of-two free throws before five straight USM points cut the deficit to two with 20 seconds to play. Koulechov was then fouled and made both free throws. An Edwards jumper again made it a two-point game with six seconds to play.
Southern Miss then fouled Lott before any time ran off the clock and he made one-of-two ensuing free throws. To avoid a three-point attempt, Rice fouled Edwards who made the first and then made the second while trying to miss it. Evans was then fouled and made both to push it back to a three-point game. The Owls again fouled before USM could get a shot off. Campbell made the first, but Koulechov rebounded the second and was fouled with three second to play.
Koulechov made the first free throw, but his second attempt bounced out, allowing Campbell to attempt a full court shot. But, the ball bounced off the back of the rim, securing the win for the Owls.
Rice was held to a season-low 36.7% (18-of-49) from the field, including just 31.8% (7-of-22) from three. Southern Miss connected on just 20-of-51 (39.2%) from the floor and 3-of-15 (20.0%) from three. Rice was also outrebounded for the first time in nine games, 39-to-37.
Rice begins a two-game homestand next Thursday, Jan. 26, when it hosts Old Dominion. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be broadcast by CampusInsiders.