Nov. 9, 2013
HOUSTON, Texas - Strong debuts from several freshmen propelled Rice University men's basketball to a 69-60 win against St. Thomas in the season opener at Tudor Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon.
The Owls (1-0) knocked down nine three-pointers and added 18 points in the paint to gain a 21-point lead mid-way through the second half before the Celts (0-3) staged a rally to pull within five points late in regulation.
Behind solid free throw shooting from sophomore Max Guercy (12-of-14), the Owls regained control of the contest and salted away the win. Guercy led the Owls with 17 points and four steals while adding three rebounds and a pair of assists. Senior Austin Ramljak also came up big for the Owls, sinking three treys en route to 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He added four rebounds and dished out one assist.
After an even 18-18 rebound margin in the first half, the Owls broke open the battle on the boards in the second, finishing the game with a 41-33 advantage. In his collegiate debut, Sean Obi led Rice with eight boards, including three on the offensive glass. The big man added eight points on 3-of-4 shooting with 2-of-3 free throws as well as both of the Owls' blocks.
Three other Owls made their debuts on Saturday afternoon, including Drew Bender, Andrew Drone and Marcus Jackson. Redshirt freshman Nizar Kapic returned to action after an injury sidelined him for 30 games last season. Together, the freshman class tallied 27 points and 17 rebounds on the day.
Jackson led the pack with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with three treys. He added five of Rice's 13 assists without a turnover and grabbed three rebounds in 22 minutes on the floor. Drone chipped in five rebounds and four points in 13 minutes, while Bender sank his lone three-point attempt in eight minutes of action. Kapic added one board in seven minutes.
The Owls worked up to a 36-27 halftime lead behind nine points from Jackson, including a pair of three-pointers. Rice shot 48 percent from the field with five three-pointers to stake out the advantage. The teams exchanged five early leads before the Owls gained the double-figure cushion.
For the game, Rice shot 39.6 percent while holding UST to 33.9 percent from the field. The Owls knocked down 22-of-32 free throws and converted 11 offensive rebounds into six second-chance points.
St. Thomas swiped 11 steals in the game and turned 17 Rice miscues into 18 points. The visitors were led in scoring by Sean Edwards, who knocked down 3-of-5 three pointers and sank all six foul shots for 19 points on the day.
Rice closes its homestand on Tuesday at Southeastern Louisiana (0-1) visits. Tip-off at Tudor Fieldhouse is set for 7 p.m.