By: Tim Andrzejewski (email@example.com)
HOUSTON - Marcus Evans scored 17 points to become Rice's all-time freshman scoring leader, but it was not enough as the Owls fell to Louisiana Tech, 90-78, Thursday evening at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Evans now has 431 points on the year, passing Brent Scott's mark of 427 set in 1989-90.
"It was a choppy game (and) an interesting game," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We were in it for a while. We had the lead in the second half with (10:40) on the clock, but we never had the oomph or the momentum. It was like pulling teeth today. It's disappointing. You only have so many opportunities in your college career. This was one."
The teams went back-and-forth through the first four minutes. With the game tied at seven, Louisiana Tech (17-5, 6-3 C-USA) got two baskets to take a four-point lead. But, three straight Rice layups gave the Owls their first lead of the game at 13-11 eight minutes in.
The teams traded leads over the next two and a half minutes. With the Bulldogs clinging to an 18-17 advantage, Bishop Mency hit a three-pointer, then following an offensive foul, Koulechov hit a layup. Jy'lan Washington made one-of-two free throws, but Evans hit a three to give Rice (7-15, 2-7) its largest lead of the half, 25-19, with 7:50 to play.
However, the Owls went cold, missing their next eight shots. But, they stayed in the game thanks to seven-of-10 free throw shooting.
Rice finally retook the lead on a Max Guercy layup with five seconds remaining, but Derric Jean hit a three at the buzzer to send Rice into halftime trailing 36-34.
The Owls opened the second half on an 8-0 run to take a 42-36 lead. But, Louisiana Tech responded with seven straight points to regain the lead by one. Rice scored seven of the next nine to take a 49-45 lead six minutes into the second stanza.
After the teams traded three-pointers, Alex Hamilton made one of two free throws. After each team scored, Mency hit a three and Evans made a pair of free throws as Rice grabbed its biggest lead of the game, 59-51, with 10:40 to play. However, the Bulldogs turned up the pressure, going on a 15-0 run over the next 5:32 to take back control. The Owls would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Added Rhoades, "At the 10 minute mark, you'd say that this would be a great win for our program. Then the wheels fell off. (We were) just not very tough down the stretch. It was a very hard game the way it was called, to guard. They got too many things at the basket. When they shoot 56.0% on the road, you're going to have a tough time winning at home."
Rice shot 43.1% (25-of-58) from the floor, including 9-of-23 (39.1%) from three. Louisiana Tech connected on 55.7% (34-of-61) from the field, including 60.0% in the second half and was 6-of-15 (40.0%) from three. The Bulldogs outrebounded Rice, 40-to-28, and scored outscored the Owls in the paint, 52-to-28.
Rice closes its three-game homestand this Saturday, February 6, when it hosts Southern Miss. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.