By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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HOUSTON -- After a sluggish start, Rice picked up the pace on its way to a 96-86 exhibition victory over Our Lady of the Lake, Saturday night from Tudor Fieldhouse.
Egor Koulechov led the scoring with 23 points and pulled down a game-high eight rebounds. Marcus Evans had 21 points and five rebounds. Marcus Jackson, in his first action after missing the entire 2015-16 to injury, scored 15 points and had five assists and Ako Adams added 10 points.
"This is the type of game that we needed," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We wanted an exhibition game that was going to be different and fast. We wanted to throw the guys in the fire. It was good. We were able to play a lot of young guys. It was great to just get back in uniform, in front of the fans."
Rice missed its first six shots of the game and turned the ball over three times while OLLU hit its first six shots to take a 15-1 lead just 3:41 into the game. Koulechov got the Owls' first basket of the game, but the Saints scored eight of the next 13 points to take their largest lead of the game at 23-8, 2:23 later.
But the Owls began to pick up the play, going on a 13-0 run over the next 3:56 to cut the lead to 23-21. OLLU responded with six straight points to push the lead to eight. After the teams traded baskets for the next two minutes, a Tim Harrison dunk followed by layup from Connor Cashaw and Jackson cut the deficit to 34-33.
The teams went back-and-forth before OLLU took a five-point lead on a pair of Joe Jackson free throws and a three by Dilepso Blanco. However, a Cashaw jumper a two free throws from Adams sent Rice into halftime trailing just 43-42.
Evans began the second half by giving Rice its first lead of the game. Drone and Michael Hagan-Daniel traded jumpers. Evans, after the Owls missed their first 13 three-pointers of the game, finally got one to go down and Jackson followed with a three of his own. Evans then made one-of-two free throws. However, the Saints scored seven straight points to take a 54-53 lead 4:37 into the second half.
A layup by Koulechov regained the lead for Rice, but Darion Brown made one-of-two free throws to tie the game. Chad Lott made a layup, but Brown gave Our Lady of the Lake a 58-57 lead with a three-pointer. Jackson tied the game with a free throw and Adams and Jackson hit back-to-back threes for a six-point lead. The teams traded baskets over the next two minutes.
However, four straight points by Evans sent Rice on a 9-0 run, taking a 75-61 lead in the process. OLLU went on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to eight, but they would get no closer.
Added Rhoades, "I liked how we shared the ball today. We just have to get tougher with the basketball. The lesson for our guys is that you always have to be strong with the ball and you never let anyone speed you up. Tonight, they sped us up at times. But, it was good for us."
Rice connected on 52.6% (30-of-57) from the field and 30.8% (8-of-26) from three. Our Lady of the Lake shot 43.8% (32-of-73) from the floor and just 25.0% (6-of-24) from behind the arc. The Owls also outrebounded OLLU, 47-to-37.
Rice opens the season next Sunday, November 13, when it travels to Harrisonburg, Va., to face James Madison. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed for free at JMUsports.com.