By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Marcus Evans tied a career-high with 32 points and Max Guercy hit a three to send the game into overtime as Rice came back from a seven-point deficit with 38 seconds left to stun Southern Miss, 76-74, in overtime.
The victory was Rice's fourth straight, the first time it has won four straight conference games since the 2004-05 season when it's a part of the Western Athletic Conference.
Evans tied a career-high with 32 points, including 20 in the second half and overtime. Connor Cashaw had 13 points and six rebounds and Marquez Letcher-Ellis had 11 points and six boards. Egor Koulechov had 11 points and Guercy added team-highs of nine assists and seven rebounds.
"I'm really excited for our guys," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "What a great finish. In college basketball, to get a win on the road is so hard. For us to not play very well but to find a way to stick around at the end and get that done; it was a complete gut-check game"
Rice (12-16, 7-8 C-USA) trailed 30-28 at the half. The Owls tied the game three times in the first five minutes of the second half. Evans hit a three to give Rice a 39-36 lead, its first lead since 2-0. But, Quinton Campbell answered with a three to tie the game at 39.
The game went back and forth for the next two minutes. With Rice leading 45-43, Jackson and Campbell hit back-to-back threes to give Southern Miss (7-19, 4-11) a 49-45 lead with 10:38 to play. Cashaw pulled the Owls within one with a three, but Jackson and Campbell made back-to-back threes to push the lead to 55-48 with 8:28 to play.
However, Rice scored nine of the next 11 points to tie the game at 57 with 3:08 remaining. The Golden Eagles answered with nine of 11 points over the next 2:30 to lead 66-59. Evans made a layup and Koulechov fouled Robert Thomas III to put him at the line for a one-and-one. He missed the first and Letcher-Ellis grabbed the rebound. Evans was then fouled and made both to cut the deficit to three with 25 seconds left.
Guercy then fouled Jackson to put him at the line for another one-and-one. Jackson missed the first and Koulechov grabbed the rebound. After a Rice timeout, Cashaw inbounded the ball to Guercy, who set up the defense, then drilled a three to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Rice got the ball to start overtime. Koulechov was fouled and made one-of-two. The Owls got a stop and Guercy found Cashaw for a three and a 70-66 lead. Keljin Blevins cut the deficit to two, but Letcher-Ellis made two-of-four free throws to push the lead back to four with 1:32 to play.
Khari Price made two free throws and then Michael Ramey hit a three to give Southern Miss its first lead of the overtime period, 73-72. But, Evans answered right back with a jumper with 16 seconds left. Jackson then drove the baseline and was fouled by Cashaw with seven seconds left. But Cashaw made just one-of-two free throws to tie the game at 74. Evans immediately took the inbounds pass, drove the length of the court and was fouled by Cortez Edwards with three seconds remaining. Evans made both free throws, giving rice the two-point lead. Jackson's last second three-point attempt was no good and Rice left with the victory.
Rice shot 53.7% (29-of-54) from the field and 30.0% (6-of-20) from three. The Owls were also just 12-of-23 (52.2%) from the free throw line. Southern Miss was 22-of-51 (43.1%) from the floor and 13-of-33 (39.4%) from three.
Rice plays its final road game of the year this Saturday, Feb. 27, when it travels to Ruston, La., to face Louisiana Tech. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.