Jan. 25, 2014
HOUSTON, Texas – Rice University men’s basketball jumped out to a first half lead and fended off a late run to knock off Charlotte for its first Conference USA win of the season, 71-69, on Saturday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Charlotte came out firing on all cylinders to start the game and claimed an early 19-10 lead. The Owls then rallied back quickly to tie the game at 21-21 and took its first lead moments later. Though the 49ers shot 50 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, the Owls sank 6-of-11 three-pointers to stake a 36-31 lead at the break.
The Owls (6-13, 1-5 C-USA) then maintained their hot shooting hand after the intermission and extended their advantage to as many as 12 points early in the half. Charlotte (12-7, 3-3) chipped away to bring the deficit down to single digits for good with six minutes left. The 49ers pulled within three points with two minutes to play, and then as close as two points with 35 ticks remaining on the clock.
Trailing by two points with 9.8 seconds left, Charlotte brought the ball up the court for its final opportunity, but a jumper from the left corner at the buzzer fell short to preserve the Owls’ victory. Rice connected on 5-of-6 foul shots in the final minute to preserve the win.
Seth Gearhart led the Owls with 16 points, including four three-pointers on seven attempts from downtown. The junior shot 5-of-9 from the field overall and added four rebounds, two assists and a steal for Rice.
Austin Ramljak also caught fire from downtown with four three-pointers of his own on six shots for 13 points and three rebounds. As a team, Rice knocked down 12-of-24 three-pointers on the night and shot 43.1 percent from the field.
The 49ers also shot well in the game, connecting on 47.9 percent of field goal attempts and 19-of-23 free throws. Part of the visitors’ trouble on the night came in ball security as Rice forced a season-high 18 turnovers in the game, which translated into 17 points.
Keith Washington added 10 points and teamed with Marcus Jackson to combine for six assists without a single turnover against Charlotte’s constant full-court pressure. Jackson scored seven points with three rebounds and three steals on the night while Washington was 4-of-5 from the foul line, with all four makes coming in the final 48 seconds of regulation.
Coming off a monster game on Thursday night, freshman Sean Obi fouled out with eight points and a team-high seven rebounds in 29 minutes. Max Guercy was the fourth Owl to score in double figures with 10 points, including a 5-of-6 mark from the charity stripe. The sophomore dished out five of the team’s 17 assists and chipped in one rebound and a steal.
Charlotte’s Shawn Lester came off the bench to score 18 points while Willie Clayton notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. UNCC owned a 35-26 advantage on the glass and scored 30 points in the paint to Rice’s 20.
Rice takes to the road next week, beginning with a game at UTSA on Thursday at 8 p.m. The contest will be televised on CSS. From there, Rice heads to the site of the 2014 Conference USA Championship to face UTEP on Saturday.