By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Box Score | Box Score
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- Rice came back from a 15-point deficit to tie the game with 1:45 to play, but WKU scored the final seven points as Rice fell, 79-72, Saturday night at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Egor Koulechov recorded his 11th double-double of the year, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Marcus Jackson score 13 points, Ako Adams had a career-high 11 points and Marcus Evans added 10.
Rice trailed, 43-35, to start the second half. After trading baskets for the first minute and a half, the Hilltoppers went on a 10-4 run over the next 6:14 to take a 57-43 lead. Adams made one-of-two free throws, but Anton Waters converted a three-point play to give WKU its largest lead of the game, 60-45, with 11:50 to play.
But Rice would not go away. After the teams traded baskets, Koulechov, Jackson and Adams made back-to-back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to 62-56, forcing a WKU timeout with 7:37 remaining.
The Hilltoppers scored six of the next eight points to push the lead back to 10. But, Koulechov hit two free throws followed by a three to send the Owls on a 14-4 run, culminating in two Adams free throws to tie the game at 72 with 1:45 to play.
After Justin Johnson gave the Hilltoppers the lead, Marquez Letcher-Ellis was called for a moving screen. Que Johnson made a layup and Letcher-Ellis' three-point attempt came up short. After Tobias Harris made one-of-two free throws, Koulechov rebounded Jackson's three-point attempt but was called for over the back. Justin Johnson sealed the win for WKU with a pair of free throws.
Rice started off hitting three of its first four three-pointers as it jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first four minutes. But the Hilltoppers went on an 8-0 run to take a 12-11 lead. Rice regained the lead on two Austin Meyer free throws, but two straight WKU three-pointers gave the Hilltoppers a five point lead.
After trading baskets, Evans hit a three and Chad Lott made a jumper to tie the game at 20 with 11:11 to play in the half. However WKU went on an 11-2 run over the next 4:14 to take its largest lead of the half at 31-22.
Evans and Koulechov pulled the Owls within five before Justin Johnson converted a three-point play. Rice then scored seven of the next eight points to cut the deficit to 35-33 with 1:58 left in the half. But WKU closed on an 8-2 run to lead 43-35 at the break.
Rice connected on 24-of-55 (43.6%) from the field including 11-of-23 (47.8%) from three and 13-of-14 (92.9%) from the line. WKU shot 51.8% (29-of-56) from the floor but just 30.8% (4-of-13) from three. Rice was also outrebounded, 34-to-31.
Rice travels to Birmingham, Ala., next week for the MetroPCS Conference USA Tournament, beginning Wednesday, Mar. 3. The fifth-seeded Owls will face 12th-seed Southern Miss. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed by Campus Insiders.
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