Box Score | Box Score
By: Tim Andrzejewski (email@example.com)
HOUSTON, Texas -- Rice got off to a hot start and never let up on the way to its third straight victory, 86-70, over FIU, Saturday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Marcus Evans scored 30 points, his second 30-point game of the season. He also had a career-high six steals, five rebounds, three assists and a block. Egor Koulechov scored 21 points and had nine rebounds. Connor Cashaw had 15 points and tied a career-high with nine boards and Marquez Letcher-Ellis had 12 points. Max Guercy added seven assists.
"We followed the game plan for most of the game," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "The best thing we did today was that we rebounded well and we really shared the ball. When you have a young team, sometimes the ball sticks. We did a better of sharing the ball and getting better shots. We were more aggressive at getting to the basket. That created threes for us and I thought we played really well on defense. It was a good step. It's about time he had a lead and kept it."
Rice (11-16, 6-8 C-USA) scored the first seven points of the game, forcing an FIU timeout. The Panthers scored eight of the next 11 points before Evans hit a three to make it a 13-8 game, 5:41 into the game. Two straight FIU baskets cut the deficit to 13-12 before a Cashaw three-point play sent Rice on a 15-5 run to take a 28-17 lead with 7:33 to play in the half.
A Michael Douglas three stopped the run for FIU (12-16, 6-9), but Drone countered with a three-point play. After trading threes, Cameron Smith made one of two free throws to make it a 10-point game. The teams went back-and-forth over the next 4:14.
With 1:23 to play in the half, Evans took over. He drove in for a layup and then stepped in front of Eric Nottage's pass and was fouled. After making both free throws, he grabbed the rebound off of Donte McGill's missed three and was fouled again. He made both shots and then got another steal, leading to Koulechov's layup as time expired, sending the Owls into the break with its largest halftime lead of the season, 52-34.
Evans picked up where he left off to start the second half, hitting a three-pointer. The Panthers scored eight of the next 10 points to cut the deficit to 57-42. However, Rice went on an 11-3 run to grab its largest lead of the game, 68-45, with 11 minutes to play. FIU would get no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
Rhoades added, "We're getting better. This is the time of the year where you have to get better. We're getting better at doing the right things, playing well and playing together."
Rice connected on 52.4% (33-of-63) from the field and 36.0% (9-of-25) from three. FIU was 26-of-57 (45.6%) from the floor and 8-of-16 (50.0%) from three. The Owls won the rebounding battle, 36-to-33 and recorded 11 steals.
Rice begins its final road trip of the season next Thursday, Feb. 25, when it travels to Hattiesburg, Miss., to face Southern Miss. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.