HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball held Conference USA's top-scoring team to a season low in points, but fell, 58-45, to Louisiana Tech on Saturday evening in front of 2,613 fans at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, "It was a hard game to score in today. It wasn't lack of effort. I thought our guys did a great job of being composed and continuing to fight. We did not shoot the ball well and their athleticism had something to do with that. We didn't make enough shots and we didn't come out well in the second half. That really hurt us. We needed to start the second half with energy - that's on me and I need to find a way to fix that. It really hurt us tonight."
Seth Gearhart scored in double figures for the 12th-straight game and led the Owls with 16 points, including a 9-of-11 mark from the foul line. The senior added four rebounds and a steal in 29 minutes of action.
Marcus Jackson added 12 points, including a pair of three-pointers. The sophomore also collected three rebounds and a pair of assists. Max Guercy contributed eight points, including 1-of-2 three-pointers. The junior, who leads Conference USA in free throw shooting percentage, had an uncharacteristically rough night at the foul line, sinking just 1-of-4 attempts. He dished out a team-high five assists.
The Owls quickly bounced back from a strong LA Tech start with a 10-3 run to take a 17-13 lead near the midway point of the first half. From there, LT scored 10-straight points to regain the advantage. The Owls fired back to within one point at 23-22. Rice was unable to regain an advantage before the intermission as LT led, 28-24, at the break.
LA Tech burst out of the gate to open the second half with a 9-2 run to increase its lead to a game-high 11 points in the early going. Rice chipped away to within five points with just over 11 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs answered and pushed the lead up to as many as 15 points with four minutes to play. The Owls cut back within 10 points but were unable pull any closer in the closing minutes.
The teams were even on the boards with 32 rebounds apiece. The Owls converted 11 offensive rebounds into seven second-chance points. Rice shot 32.6 percent of the field after knocking down just 5-of-17 shots in the second half. The Owls were 5-of-19 from downtown, marking the team's fewest three-pointers in a game since early December.
LA Tech's Alex Hamilton and Erik McCree scored 13 points each to lead the visitors. McCree's eight rebounds were also a team high. The Bulldogs connected on 6-of-13 three-pointers on the night and 10-of-16 free throws.
The Owls open a four-game road trip with their final non-conference game of the regular season on Wednesday at Houston. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Hofheinz Pavilion before Rice resumes conference play on Saturday, Jan. 31, at North Texas.