HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball came from 10 points down in the second half to knock off Southern Miss, 58-56, on Thursday night at Tudor Fieldhouse. It was the Owls' second-straight Conference USA win as the team closed the game on a 16-4 run over the final seven minutes.
With the game tied and just nine seconds to play, Marcus Jackson hauled in a defensive rebound and dribbled up to mid-court before he was fouled by a USM player with 5.4 ticks remaining. Jackson knocked down both of his free throw attempts to give Rice a narrow two-point edge. Rice defended the Golden Eagles' final tying attempt to come away with the win.
Jackson led the team with 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting with five three-pointers on eight attempts. Including the clinching shots from the stripe, he sank all four free throw attempts in the game to accompany three rebounds and three assists.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, "It was a gut check. I was really proud of our guys. We got down 10 there and we could have bagged it. We've had a lot of games this season where we were in the position and came back but couldn't get over the hump, but we have in the last two games. It's a good sign for our program and good sign for our culture and we need to continue to move forward. Led by Marcus and Seth and Max, we've got to keep digging and keep finding a way. That was fun and I'm really proud of our guys."
The Owls jumped out to an 18-8 lead barely five minutes into the game on six three-pointers, including four from Jackson. Rice went on to sink seven of its first nine three-point attempts. The Owls led by as many as 13 points in the opening frame before the Golden Eagles chipped back within 31-30 at the intermission. Rice shot 44.0 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, and 8-of-16 from downtown. The Owls converted 11 assists on 11 made baskets in the frame.
Southern Miss took its first lead of the game early in the second half at 35-33. The teams battled back and forth before the Golden Eagles broke a tie with a seven-point run and eventually worked up to a 52-42 advantage with less than eight minutes to play. The Owls chipped away and tied the game at 54-54 with 1:08 on the clock and again at 56-56 less than 30 seconds later. After the hot start from beyond the arc, Rice connected on 3-of-10 three-pointers after halftime.
Seth Gearhart chipped in 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including three triples, to accompany six rebounds and three assists. Andrew Drone matched him for the team lead with six rebounds of his own while notching six points on 3-of-4 shooting and a block.
Max Guercy dished out a season-high eight assists as the Owls matched a season high with 17 assists on the team's 20 field goals. Rice also owned a 32-23 edge on the glass and turned eight offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points.
The Owls shot 45.5 percent from the field and 11-of-26 from downtown while the Golden Eagles sank 44.9 percent of their field goals and 8-of-16 three-pointers.
Rice closes out the home stand on Saturday at 7 p.m. when Louisiana Tech visits Tudor Fieldhouse.