By: Tim Andrzejewski (email@example.com)
With UTEP's victory at North Texas, Rice (7-24, 4-14 C-USA) was eliminated from Conference USA Tournament contention.
Junior Connor Cashaw recorded his team-high sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Lincolnshire, Ill., native became the 36th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, while also becoming the 17th player with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
"Obviously, tonight did not go our way," said Rice head coach Scott Pera. "We found out right before tip what happened with UTEP. It was challenging to say the least on the staff and the team. We just had nothing in the tank. But in the second half, they showed who they are by fighting right to the buzzer. For that I'm proud of them."
Rice came out cold, making just one of its first 11 shots as UTSA (18-13, 11-7) jumped out to a 15-3 lead through the first 9:25. Robert Martin then made a jumper, but three straight three-pointers gave the Roadrunners a 24-5 advantage.
Cashaw and Osborne got the Owls back in it, scoring every point in a 9-0 run to pull Rice within 24-14 with seven minutes to play in the half. But UTSA answered with eight straight points to push its lead to 32-14.
Rice then traded two's for UTSA threes as the Roadrunners took their largest lead of the half, 40-18 with 2:13 to play. But consecutive baskets by Cashaw and Martin sent Rice into the break trailing 40-22.
UTSA opened the second half scoring 11 of the first 15 points through the first 3:29 to take its largest lead of the game at 51-26. The Owls, however, wouldn't go away.
After a basket by Hunter, Bishop Mency blocked Nick Allen's shot, leading to a jumper by Osborne. UTSA then turned the ball over and Cashaw made a jumper. Adams then bookended a pair of three-pointers around a Hunter free throw to bring Rice within 12 points at 51-39 with 12:51 to play.
But the teams traded baskets with UTSA connecting on five straight threes to push its lead to 18 points. The Owls would get no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
Added Pera, "We just finished a 7-24 season and I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys, be more honored to be their coach and be more impressed with how they handled themselves with what we went through this year. I'm very much looking forward to next year."
Rice connected on 36.4% (24-of-66) from the field, 22.6% (7-of-31) from three and just 41.7% (5-of-12) from the free throw line. UTSA was 29-of-57 (50.9%) from the floor, 15-of-34 (44.1%) and just 6-of-10 (60.0%) from the charity stripe.