By: Tim Andrzejewski (email@example.com)
Box Score | Box Score
HOUSTON, Texas -- Rice got off to a fast start and pulled away late, defeating Charlotte 84-67, Saturday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
With the win, Rice sweeps the season-series from Charlotte and improves to 14-8, 4-5 in Conference USA.
Egor Koulechov led Rice with 23 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Marcus Evans also had 23 points while grabbing a season-high six rebounds. Connor Cashaw had a season-high 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds and Marquez Letcher-Ellis added eight points and seven boards.
"That was a good rebound from Thursday," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We did a good job of playing together and following the game plan. We were aggressive and played loose today. A lot of guys contributed. When we have multiple guys who are a threat, we're hard to guard."
Cashaw scored the first five points of the game. Charlotte then went on an 8-0 run to take an 8-5 lead. However, Egor Koulechov's three tied the game and sent Rice on a 14-0 run as Rice grabbed a 19-8 lead just 5:23 into the game.
The 49ers then scored nine of the next 11 points on a trio of three-pointers. Marcus Jackson made a layup, but Anthony Vanhook scored four straight points to pull Charlotte within 23-20. But, Cashaw responded with six straight points to give Rice a 29-20 lead with 7:38 to play in the first half.
After trading baskets, Braxton Ogbueze hit a three and Quentin Jackson made one-of-two free throws, Koulechov then made a layup but baskets by Jon Davis and Austin Ajukwa cut the deficit 33-30 with 4:33 to play. However, Rice held the 49ers to just one-of-seven the rest of the half as it entered halftime with a 38-33 lead.
Rice opened the second half scoring seven of the first nine points to take a 45-35 lead. After four straight Charlotte points, Jackson converted a three-point play. Ogbueze made a layup, but Koulechov answered with a jumper.
Charlotte then hit back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to five, but Evans answered with four straight points. The teams traded baskets before Vanhook converted a three-point play to cut the lead to 56-50 with 12:42 remaining. However, Rice went on a 17-6 run over the next 7:44 to put the game away.
Rhoades added, "I'm really proud of our defense. (Charlotte) is a hard team to guard. They really attack you. I thought we did a good job of guarding the ball and helping each other. We finally did a good job of defending around the rim which really helped us."
Rice shot 55.4% (31-of-56) from the floor, including 44.4% (8-of-18) from three and 77.8% (14-of-18) from the free throw line. Charlotte was held to 26-of-69 (37.7%) from the field and 5-of-20 (25.0%) from three. Rice also outrebounded the 49ers, 43-to-30.
Rice opens a three-game road trip next Saturday, Feb. 4, when it travels to Denton to face North Texas. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed by CUSA.tv.