Feb. 9, 2017
MIAMI, Fla. -- Rice used a 21-8 run late in the second half to turn a 59-59 tie into an 89-78 win over FIU, Thursday night at Lime Court FIU Arena.
It was Rice's third straight win, improving it to 16-8 and 6-5 in Conference USA.
Marcus Evans led all scorers with 27 points while tying a season-high with six rebounds. Egor Koulechov had 20 points and seven rebounds and Chad Lott recorded 10 points and six boards. Austin Meyer added career-highs of eight rebounds and four blocks.
"I'm really proud of how we responded," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We had a lot of guys contribute to the win. They came back like we knew they would. But, we played good defense down the stretch. We got some stops and were able to get some easier shots."
Rice entered the second half leading 44-36. The Owls turned the ball over four times in their first seven possessions as FIU opened the half on a 10-4 run to pull within two points four minutes into the half. The game went back and forth for the next minute and a half.
With Rice leading 52-48, Anthony Boswell made two free throws and Michael Kessens made a layup to tie the game at 55, the first time it was tied since it was 18-18. Connor Cashaw immediately hit a three and Lott followed with a layup to take a five-point lead. But the Panthers answered with five straight points to tie the game.
After trading baskets, the game was tied at 59 with 9:34 to play. That's when Rice stepped up its play. Marquez Letcher-Ellis made a driving layup and after getting fouled, converted the three-point play. Evans and Koulechov then both made a pair of free throws to take a 66-59 lead with 7:06 remaining.
Eric Nottage converted a three-point play to pull FIU within four points. Rice then went on a 10-2 run to take a 76-64 lead with 3:26 to play as Evans scored eight straight points. Hassan Hussein converted a three-point play. But Koulechov and Evans again both made a pair of free throws as Rice took its largest lead of the game at 80-67 with 2:24 to play. FIU got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Rice connected on 51.7% (31-of-60) from the field and 38.1% (8-of-21), while hitting 86.4% (19-of-22) from the free throw line. FIU was held to just 40.0% (30-of-70) from the floor and 15.8% (3-of-19) from beyond the arc. Rice outrebounded FIU, 39-to-37 and outscored the Panthers on the fast break, 22-to-8.
Rice closes its road trip this Saturday, Feb. 11, when it travels to Boca Raton, Fla., to face Florida Atlantic. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed by CUSA.tv.