By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HOUSTON, Texas -- Rice placed six players in double-figures, but it was not enough as the Owls fell, 85-79, to Utah Valley in the CBI Quarterfinals, Monday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
With the loss, Rice ends the season at 23-12.
Egor Koulechov led Rice with 14 points and seven rebounds. Marcus Evans had 13 points and five rebounds. Marquez Letcher-Ellis scored 12 points and Connor Cashaw had 11 and six rebounds. Marcus Jackson and Andrew Drone added 10 points apiece.
"It hurts," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We needed to play better. (Utah Valley is a good team). We didn't get enough stops down the stretch. But, I'm really proud of the guys for the year that they had. They got better every day. I just wish we were still playing."
The teams traded baskets through the first minute and a half. Letcher-Ellis hit a three and Cashaw made a jumper. After Conner Toolson pulled the Wolverines to within two, Jackson and Koulechov hit back-to-back three-pointers, giving Rice a 15-7 lead and forcing a Utah Valley timeout just 3:42 into the game.
However, the Owls went cold, missing its next nine shots as UVU went on a 14-0 run over the next 4:57 to take a 21-15 lead. Rice pulled to within one point on a Harrison jumper and a three-pointer from Koulechov. But, Utah Valley scored seven of the next eight points to push the lead to 28-22.
The Owls again cut the lead to one on a pair of dunks from Letcher-Ellis and a Chad Lott free throw, but Toolson answered with a three. The game went back-and-forth. With UVU leading 33-29, Koulechov made a jumper, but a three from Kenneth Ogbe and a Brandon Randolph dunk pushed the lead to 38-31.
Koulechov hit a pair of free throws and Cashaw made a layup to make it a three-point game with 2:12 to play, but Utah Valley closed the half scoring seven of the final nine points to send Rice into halftime trailing 45-37.
The teams traded baskets through the first five and a half minutes of the second half. With UVU leading 56-46, Rice went on a 9-1 run to pull within 57-55. Following two Wolverine free throws and a Jackson layup, Isaac Neilson made a jumper to make it a four-point game. However, two Drone free throws and a Cashaw layup tied the game at 61.
Ogbe immediately drilled a three as UVU retook the lead. After Jackson made one-of-two free throws, Toolson pushed the lead to four with a layup. After Lott converted a three-point play Evans gave Rice its first lead since 15-13. The game remained that way until Evans added a three-pointer to give Rice a 70-66 lead with 7:25 left.
However, the Wolverines were unfazed. Neilson hit a jumper and after a Lott turnover, Jordan Poydras tied the game with an uncontested layup. Rice regained the lead on an Evans jumper, but back-to-back three's gave Utah Valley a 76-72 lead. Following a Poydras turnover, Evans found Drone for a jumper and the teams traded three as UVU led, 79-77 with two minutes left. But, the Wolverines scored six straight points to put the game away.
Rice was 30-of-65 (46.2%) from the field and just 7-of-21 (33.3%) from three. Utah Valley connected on 50.0% (30-of-60) from the floor and 41.9% (13-of-31) from three. Rice was also outrebounded, 37-to-34.
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