HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball fought hard for 40 minutes in its final non-conference game of the regular season, but the Owls were unable to overcome Houston in a 59-48 setback at Hofheinz Pavilion on Wednesday night.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, "That was ugly on all fronts. We talked about being excited to come out and play, but we had no juice today. It's really disappointing. We've been playing aggressively and getting after opponents but we didn't do that today. My hat's off to Houston; I thought they did some really good things to attack our defense. When you don't play with energy and emotion, it's really hard to dig out of holes and we did that today. When we got desperate at the end of the game, we were so much more aggressive and we got some really good shots. We needed to play like that about 36 minutes earlier."
After tying the game at 22-22 just after halftime, Houston went on a run to regain the lead and never looked back. Despite the Owls' 55 percent shooting in the second half, the Cougars heated up from downtown and knocked in 8-of-10 free throws to keep the visitors at bay.
Once the Cougars opened up a double-figure lead midway through the second frame, Rice never pulled any closer than eight points down the stretch. The Owls turned the ball over 15 times, including eight times for 11 UH points after the intermission.
Seth Gearhart led the team with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including one three-pointer. The senior added six rebounds and three assists in 39 minutes. Andrew Drone added eight points and a team-high seven rebounds on the night. He shot 2-of-5 from the field and sank all four free throw attempts. Max Guercy also scored eight points before fouling out late in the contest. The junior added three assists and a steal.
Bishop Mency scored seven of his nine points in the second half, on 3-of-4 shooting. The rookie chipped in four rebounds as well as the teams battled to a 28-28 draw on the glass. Marcus Jackson added seven points and three rebounds as the starting five accounted for all but two of the team's points on the night.
For the game, Rice shot 46.2 percent from the field and 5-of-14 from downtown. The Owls dished out eight assists on 18 baskets with three steals. The defense forced just six turnovers for six points. Rice owned a narrow 22-20 edge on points in the paint after scoring its first eight points of the night down low.
Houston shot 42.3 percent from the field, including a 48 percent clip in the second half. The Cougars sank 7-of-25 three-point attempts and 8-of-11 foul shots in the game. Mikhail McLean led the team with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
The Owls return to Conference USA action on Saturday at North Texas. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. against the Mean Green and the contest will be televised on American Sports Network.