Jan. 23, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite shooting better than 50 percent from the field and holding Conference USA’s leading scorer to a season-low three points, Rice University men’s basketball was unable to top UCF in a 78-67 setback on Wednesday night at UCF Arena.
A stout Rice defense shut down the Knights’ Keith Clanton, who entered the game averaging nearly 18 points per game. The big man was 0-for-3 from the field, with two of his attempts coming from downtown. Clanton’s seven free throw attempts were just a drop in the bucket as the home team attempted 35 foul shots to Rice’s 16. Combined with a 38-21 advantage on the glass, the Knights (13-5, 3-1) secured a win down the stretch.
Following the game, head coach Ben Braun noted, “We outscored them in the paint, which was pretty big for us. I liked how we defended Clanton, who is the odds-on favorite for conference Player of the Year. We’ve been shooting the ball well and sharing it well. Tamir was tremendous tonight getting to the basket. All of our guys are really playing hard.”
Four starters scored in double figures for the Owls (4-14, 0-4 C-USA) led by 15 points from Tamir Jackson. The senior shot 7-of-12 from the field with five rebounds and three assists to pace the squad. Rice owned a 24-20 advantage on points in the paint.
Julian DeBose and Austin Ramljak each added 14 points on a combined 10-for-16 shooting. Ramljak was 4-of-8 from downtown while DeBose did most of his damage in the paint. Max Guercy added 10 points and six of the team’s 14 assists.
Rice found its range early on in the game, sinking five of its first six three-point attempts to help stake out a 22-14 lead nearly midway through the first half. UCF then rallied to take a 23-22 advantage. The lead changed hands seven times in the half leading to a 32-32 tie at the intermission.
UCF got a quick start in the second half, led by a seven-point spurt from Tristan Spurlock. The Knights opened their largest lead at 56-44 with 11:12 to play before the Owls clawed back to within two points less than four minutes later.
Rice was unable to get over the hump, however, as UCF sank 27 of its 35 free throws in the game, and 21-of-26 after the intermission.
Isaiah Sykes and Calvin Newell scored 24 points each for the Knights, while Spurlock added a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards to snap a two-game losing streak against Rice.
The Owls shot 51.1 percent from the field and drained 10-of-23 three-point attempts on the night. Rice contained UCF to a 42.9 shooting percentage and 9-of-23 mark from downtown.
Seth Gearhart sank two three-pointers for six points while Bahrom Firozgary tallied a season-best five points to accompany three rebounds in 11 minutes. Gearhart added three assists and a rebound before fouling out late in the contest.
Rice closes out its brief road trip on Saturday at Tulane. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. against the Green Wave, and the game will be televised on CSS and Comcast SportsNet Houston.