BERKELEY, Calif.--Rice dropped its second straight season opener, 97-65, at 14th-ranked California, Friday night in front of 10,530 at Haas Pavilion.
In their first games for the Owls, redshirt sophomore Egor Koulechov led the squad with team-highs of 19 points and eight rebounds and freshman Marcus Evans had 18 points. Senior Max Guercy added eight points and four assists, passing Rodney Foster (2005-09) to move into 10th-place on the school's career assist list.
"We didn't play well today," said head coach Mike Rhoades. "I thought we were selfish with the ball. We put ourselves in a tough position. (We faced) a lot of adversity today. We have a lot of young guys. It's a lot harder to win in college basketball and they just figured that out. We've got to get a lot better."
The game started as a back-and-forth affair. Cal scored the first five points, but a jumper by Evans and a three-pointer from Koulechov tied the game. After Cal made a pair of free throws and followed with an Ivan Rabb dunk, the teams twice went back and forth, each making baskets on two possessions.
Jordan Mathews made one-of-two free throws, but Marcus Evans made a driving basket to pull the Owls to within three points. However, Rice missed seven straight shots and Cal went on an 11-0 run to take a 27-11 lead.
Jumpers by Koulechov and Guercy bookended a three-pointer by Mathews and the Bears then went on a 7-0 run to take its largest lead of the half, 37-15, with 6:12 remaining in the half.
However, Rice went on a 14-4 run over the next 4:16 to get within 10 points, 41-31, with 1:56 left. But, Cal scored the final six points of the half to lead, 47-31, at the break.
Added Rhoades, "We cut it to 10 with the ball, but they scored the final six points of the half. They best way to have momentum is to take it into the half and we didn't do that. We didn't shoot very well. We shot it a little better in the second half. A lot of young guys got a lot of minutes. They've got that under their belt. Now we have to do a better job."
Guercy came out of the break and immediately found junior Andrew Drone for a layup. But, Jaylen Brown buried a three-pointer to send the Bears on a 17-4 run to put the game away.
Rice shot just 36.7% (22-of-60) from the field and 35.3% from three. Cal connected on 36-of-71 (50.7% from the floor and 10-of-23 (43.5%) from behind the arc. The Owls were also outrebounded, 48-to-30.
Cal placed five players in double-figures, led by Tyrone Wallace with 20 points.
Rice closes its season-opening two-game road trip next Monday, Nov. 16, when it faces San Francisco. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. CT and will be live streamed by theW.tv.