BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Rice once again made a second half rally, but in the end, it wasn't enough as the Owls fell, 82-70, Thursday night at league-leader UAB.
Egor Koulechov and Marquez Letcher-Ellis led the Owls with double-doubles. Koulechov had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Letcher-Ellis had 10 points and 12 boards. Marcus Evans had 14 points and a game-high five assists. Connor Cashaw recorded 13 points and five rebounds and Andrew Drone added 12 points and five boards.
Rice (6-13, 1-5 C-USA) trailed, 42-32, at the half. After UAB turned it over to start the second half, Cashaw hit a three. Evans then stepped in front of a Nick Norton pass and hit Cashaw for the layup on the fast break. A minute later, Koulechov converted a three-point play. The Owls then got a stop and Bishop Mency found Drone for the dunk, giving the Owls a 10-0 run over the first three minutes of the half and tying the game at 42.
Chris Cokley gave the UAB the lead back with a layup, but Letcher-Ellis tied the game with a pair of free throws. William Lee hit two free throws, but Letcher-Ellis converted a three-point play to give Rice its first lead of the game, 47-46, just under five minutes into the second half.
The Blazers scored six straight points over the next minute to take a five point lead, but a free throw by Cashaw followed by a layup from Koulechov pulled the Owls within two. Robert Brown made two free throws and Max Guercy followed with a layup. However, UAB went on a 10-2 run to take a 64-54 lead with 7:38 to play.
Cashaw made a layup, but a three-point play by Brown followed by two free throws from Norton pushed the lead to 13. The Blazers then scored six of the next nine points to take its largest lead of the game, 75-59, with 3:55 to play. Rice would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
UAB made its first six shots of the game as it led, 18-12, through the first 6:27. Andre Drone made a pair of free throws, but Tosin Mehinti got a dunk. Evans then hit a three and following a UAB turnover, made two free throws to cut the deficit to 20-19 with 10:55 to play in the half.
Denzell Watts hit a three for UAB, but Drone made two more free throws to make it a 23-21 game midway through the first half. However, the Blazers scored seven straight points over the next two minutes to take a 30-21 lead.
After a Letcher-Ellis dunk, Hakeem Baxter made one-of-two free throws and Norton made a three to push the lead to 11. Mency made a three to cut the deficit to 36-28 with 3:20 to play in the half. UAB scored six straight to lead by 14 with 1:16 to play. But, four straight points from Koulechov to end the half sent Rice into the break trailing by 10.
Rice was just 22-of-66 (33.3%) from the field and 6-of-34 (17.6%) from three. UAB connected on 47.3% (26-of-55) from the floor and 35.7% (5-of-14) from three. The Blazers also won the rebounding battle, 50-to-35.
Rice closes the road trip this Saturday, January 23, when it travels to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to face Middle Tennessee. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.