By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Marcus Evans scored 27 points and had four steals to lead the Owls. It was his 18th 20-point game of the season and his seventh in the last eight games. He also moved into fifth-place on the school single-season scoring list with 630 points, passing Robert Johnson (1998-99), Morris Almond (2005-06), Mike Wilks (2000-01) and Gene Schwinger (1953-54).
Egor Koulechov scored 15 points to give him 511 on the year. Koulechov and Evans join Harris and Jason McKrieth (2003-04) as the only teammates to score 500 points apiece.
Andrew Drone had 12 points and six rebounds and Marquez Letcher-Ellis had 12 points and five boards. Bishop Mency had five points and a career-high eight rebounds. Max Guercy added five assists to set the school single-season record with 171.
Rice (12-18, 7-10 C-USA) trailed 38-34 to start the second half. The Owls scored eight of the first 10 points in the half, including back-to-back three-pointers from Evans and Koulechov to give Rice a 42-40 lead, its first lead since 2-0.
The teams then traded baskets for the two minutes. The Owls made four straight free throws to take a 50-48 lead, 5:19 into the second half. Charlotte (13-17, 9-8) got a layup and a three-pointer to take a three-point lead, but Letcher-Ellis hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 53-52 with 13:37 to play.
However, the 49ers went on a 14-4 run over the next 3:24 to take a 67-56 lead. Drone hit a layup and then Koulechov picked off Jon Davis' pass and found Mency for a basket. Uchebo hit a jumper, but Koulechov again found Mency, this time for a three, to bring Rice within 69-63 with 8:54 to play. But, Charlotte scored eight of the next 10 points and Rice would get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"We fought but we shot ourselves in the foot too many times," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We had costly turnovers (and) too many turnovers. In the second half when we made a run, we just didn't put stops together. We gave up too many open shots and it put us in a tough position. (We had) too many turnovers down the stretch. (We weren't) strong with the ball. We did a really good job of getting back in the game by playing defense. I was really excited but we just couldn't keep it (going).
Charlotte got on the board first before Evans made two straight jumpers to give Rice an early 4-2 lead. The 49ers then scored eight straight points to lead 10-4. Evans hit a three to cut the deficit to three, but Charlotte went on a 14-5 run to take its largest lead of the game, 24-12, less than six minutes into the game.
Two free throws by Letcher-Ellis and a layup by Evans made it an eight point game. Joseph Uchebo made a layup and Evans made one-of-two free throws. Curran Scott then pushed the lead back to 28-17 with 11:38 to play in the half.
The game stayed that way for a minute and a half before Connor Cashaw and Drone hit back-to-back layups to make it a seven-point game. After the teams traded baskets, Scott hit three to give Charlotte a 10-point lead with eight minutes to play.
They again traded baskets. Cashaw hit a jumper and Koulechov drilled a three to cut the deficit to five. Ridell Camidge made one-of-two free throws and Scott made a jumper, pushing the lead to eight. But Drone scored four straight points to end the half, sending Rice into the break trailing 38-34.
Rice shot 47.4% (27-of-57) from the field but was just 8-of-25 (32.0%) from three. Charlotte connected on 47.8% (32-of-67) and 44.0% (11-of-25) from three. The Owls were 13-of-16 (81.3%) from the charity stripe while the 49ers were 13-of-14 (92.9%).
Rice closes the regular season this Saturday, Mar. 5, when it hosts Old Dominion on Senior Day. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and will be televised by ASN.