HOUSTON, Texas – In the seniors’ final home game, it was the underclassmen that shined for Rice University men’s basketball as sophomore Marcus Jackson scored 21 points and freshman Bishop Mency added a season-best 20. Unfortunately for the Owls, Charlotte spoiled the evening with a go-ahead basket in the final seconds to claim a 77-76 win in front of 4,653 fans at Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, “We had a great atmosphere and that was a lot of fun. I thought we came out and had a spark in the second half, and that was a lot of fun. We fought in the first half, but I thought we played some really good basketball in the second half. We’ve got to close games out; that’s been our Achilles heel throughout the year. We’ve done a good job closing games out in the last couple weeks and we had it to a two-possession game at five points. We let them score too early in possessions with line drives right to the basket and a three-pointer off the drive. It’s tough when you don’t make your foul shots and you turn the ball over. It really gave them an opportunity to get back in the game.”
Playing in their final home game, the three Owl seniors started. Seth Gearhart led the group with 16 points, three rebounds and a pair of steals. Dan Peera added three points, two assists, one rebound and a steal in 20 minutes and Van Green saw six minutes of action.
Charlotte shot over 50 percent in the opening frame to take an 11 point lead late in the period. The Owls climbed back within 38-31 at the intermission behind five three-pointers, including four from Mency, who tallied 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the half.
The Owls came out firing in the second half to tie the game at 50-50 and used an 11-point run to claim a 57-50 advantage at the midway point of the frame. The 49ers battled back to within 72-70 with two minutes to play. Rice pushed the lead back to 76-72 with just over 30 seconds on the clock, but the 49ers responded with a three-pointer with 27 seconds to go. After forcing a turnover, Terrence Williams knocked down a jumper with 8.4 seconds on the clock to take a 77-76 advantage. The Owls were unable to capitalize for the win on its final possession.
Junior Max Guercy added a career-high 13 assists while Jeremy Jones added a season-high seven rebounds to lead the team. Guercy added five rebounds and four points while Jones chipped in two points, a block and a steal in 13 minutes.
Jackson’s 21 points came on 5-of-12 shooting with 9-of-10 free throws. Mency sank 5-of-9 three-pointers to accompany four rebounds on the night.
The Owls shot 47.1 percent from the field, and 10-of-27 from downtown with 18 assists on 24 baskets. Charlotte owned a 37-31 advantage on the glass. Both teams scored 19 points off of turnovers and each team swiped nine steals.
The Owls close out the regular season next week with a pair of road contests. The Owls take on UTSA on Thursday in San Antonio before heading to UTEP on Saturday.