Men's Basketball Edged Late in Tournament Opener

March 13, 2013

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TULSA, Okla. – Rice University men’s basketball overcame an 18-point deficit with an incredible second-half run, including 16-straight points from  Tamir Jackson, before the Owls eventually fell to Houston, 72-67, in the first round of the Conference USA Championship at the BOK Center on Wednesday night.

Jackson finished with 30 points in his finale in the Blue and Gray, marking the second-straight game the senior reached the career-high scoring mark. He scored nine points in the opening half before the outstanding run that followed the intermission. The guard shot 12-of-28 from the field on the evening with three three-pointers. He added nine rebounds, three assists and a steal in 34 minutes to lead the Owls.

After tying the score at 51-51 with 11 minutes remaining, the Owls (5-26) went on to take several three-point leads down the stretch. The Cougars (19-11) caught back up and tied the game for the final time at 67-67 with 1:47 remaining in regulation. From there, the Rice shooting cooled off and Houston scored the game’s last five points to provide the final margin.

Opening the contest, Rice gained an early 9-6 lead before Houston responded to take a seven point advantage. After Rice cut its deficit to 17-14, Houston rattled off 14-straight points over a five-minute period. The Owls then began to chip away at the score, culminating with a long Julian DeBose three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the margin to a manageable 36-25 at the intermission.

Head coach Ben Braun said afterward, “We were actually very positive in the locker room at the half. We had seven turnovers and they scored on them. We struggled offensively and we were a little impatient we missed some shots early. But we said this wasn’t our best half and we are going to come back with a good second half and have a chance to win this game. Every player in that room believed that and every coach in the room believed it. Our team believed it and we went out and played hard. We made some huge plays. We got some stops and scored the first couple of baskets and now we’re in the game and battling. We outplayed Houston in the second half. It was a huge effort for our guys. We can build on what we did in the half and down the stretch this season. There was no giving in or talking about next year or making excuses. Our team played hard every game.”

DeBose matched Jackson with nine points in the first half and finished the night with 13 on 5-of-13 shooting. The sophomore added four rebounds and a pair of steals in 39 minutes on the floor.

Austin Ramljak came on strong in the second half and found his shooting touch to add 11 points with three treys. The junior grabbed four of the Owls’ 34 rebounds and passed out a pair of assists.

For the game, the Owls shot 37.1 percent, including a 43.9 clip in the second half. The squad sank 7-of-25 three-pointers and knocked down 8-of-10 free throws. Houston shot 51.9 percent from the field.

The teams played even with 34 points each in the pain, while the Owls converted 15 Cougar turnovers into 17 points. Rice also worked hard on the offensive glass to haul in 14 rebounds for 16 second-chance points.

Keith Washington added solid play off the bench with five points and a team-high four assists, marking the third game in a row that the freshman has been Rice’s leading distributor. He added three rebounds and two steals.

TaShawn Thomas led sixth-seeded Houston with 16 points and 10 of the team’s 39 boards. Three other Cougars scored in double figures in the game, and four different players scored the team’s final six points as Houston came from behind in the game’s waning moments.

Houston faces third-seeded UTEP on Thursday in the C-USA Championship quarterfinal. With the exception of Jackson, Rice returns 10 of its 11 players for next season.

Jackson finished his collegiate career ranking in program history with 128 games played. He is Rice’s all-time leader with 4,108 minutes played and ranks among the top 10 in numerous other categories in the Owls’ record book.





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