March 6, 2013
HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball cut a 19-point deficit down to nine in the second half but Houston regained its momentum to put away the Owls, 84-62, on Wednesday night in Hofheinz Pavilion. Senior Tamir Jackson did all he could to keep Rice in the game as he led the team with 25 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
The squads traded baskets early on before Houston took advantage of a Rice scoring drought to work up to a 36-20 lead. The Owls would rally back behind Julian DeBose's nine points and took a chunk out of the Cougar lead to take a manageable 40-27 deficit into the locker room at the break.
DeBose finished the game with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting to accompany four assists, three steals and a pair of rebounds. Austin Ramljak also reached double figures late in the game as he sank four three-pointers and a pair of free throws to total 14 points. The junior also swiped two of the Owls' nine steals and dished out an assist.
After the intermission, Houston worked back up to a 19-point advantage just three minutes into the second half before the Owls (5-24, 1-14) chipped away and pulled within nine points at 67-58 with 5:15 to play as Keith Washington found Bahrom Firozgary open under the basket for a layup. Rice would never get any closer as the Cougars (17-11, 6-9) ended the game on a 17-4 run.
"I thought we played a lot better in the second half," head coach Ben Braun said of his team's performance. "Somehow we have become a stretch run team and come on strong later in games. I thought Keith gave us a lot of energy off the bench and Tamir played hard. He is always battling and I don't know if there's anyone anywhere that plays harder than him."
After missing two games with a wrist injury, Washington made his return to the court in 20 minutes. The freshman dished out four assists and grabbed a steal to accompany one rebound. Firozgary battled foul trouble to notch four points and three rebounds over 16 minutes of action.
Rice shot 42.1 percent in the game and 6-of-22 from downtown. The Owls only got to the foul line 11 times in the game, but sank eight of the attempts. Houston knocked down 22-of-26 free throws in the game and converted 50 percent of its field goals.
In his final home game for the Cougars, senior Leon Gibson notched a double-double in 20 minutes of play with 18 points and 12 rebounds. The forward was 8-of-8 from the charity stripe.
UH owned a 44-20 advantage in rebounds and converted 19 second-chance points off of 15 offensive boards. The Cougars also scored 46 points in the paint, thanks in part to the second-chance points and 14 fast-break points off of 13 Rice turnovers.
Rice returns home on Saturday to host Tulsa in the regular season finale at 7 p.m. The Owls will honor Jackson prior to his final home game for the Blue and Gray.