By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Box Score | Box Score
DENTON, Texas - - Rice jumped out to an 18-2 lead and never looked back, as 11 Owls found the scoresheet in a 95-80 victory over North Texas, Saturday afternoon at the Super Pit.
It was Rice's first victory at North Texas in seven attempts. With the win, Rice improved to 15-8, 5-5 in Conference USA.
Marcus Evans led Rice with 18 points and Marcus Jackson had 17. Marquez Letcher-Ellis had 11 points and five rebounds and Chad Lott had 10 points and five boards. Egor Koulechov added nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
"We wanted to get off to a great start," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We got a great push to give us momentum. (North Texas) can really score so we knew they were going to make a run. But we didn't want to make it hard the whole game. When we're loose and playing aggressive, we're pretty good."
Rice scored the first seven points of the half, forcing a North Texas timeout after a Connor Cashaw three-pointer. After a Shane Temara layup, Marquez Letcher-Ellis hit a three to send Rice on an 11-0 run and an 18-2 lead just five minutes into the game.
The teams traded baskets over the next 1:49. A.J. Lawson was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws, but Rice scored the next seven points, all on free throws, to take its largest lead of the half at 30-9 with 10:33 to play.
However, a Derail Green three-pointer sent the Mean Green on an 11-3 run over the next 3:26 to cut the deficit to 33-20. The teams went back and forth over the next five minutes. With Rice leading 47-30, North Texas scored six straight points. Jackson then converted a three-point play with 19 seconds left in the half, but Ryan Woolridge hit a three before the break as Rice went into halftime with a 50-39 lead. Cashaw then hit a three and Koulechov made a driving layup to cap off a 10-0 run and push the Rice lead to 65-46 with 13:36 to play.
North Texas would get no closer than 13 points the rest of the way as the Owls led by as many as 22.
The teams traded baskets through the first three minutes of the second half. With Rice leading by 12, Ja'Michael Brown converted a three-point play to cut the lead to 55-46. Evans then made a layup and, following a turnover by Lawson, Evans hit a three.
Rhoades added, "I'm really proud of our guys. We talked about having never won here being the first team to do that. We wanted to have a lot of guys contribute in different ways. We got a great bench today. Defensively, we didn't allow them many runs."
Rice shot 46.9% (30-of-64) from the field and 37.0% (10-of-27) from three. The Owls also connected on 83.3% (25-of-30) from the foul line. North Texas was held to just 27-of-68 (39.7%) from the floor and 7-of-21 (33.3%) from three. Rice also outrebounded the Mean Green, 46-to-34.
Rice continues its road trip next Thursday, Feb. 9, when it travels to Miami, Fla., to face FIU. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed by CUSA.tv.