HOUSTON, Texas--Rice made a valiant comeback attempt, but ultimately it fell short, as the Owls dropped its home opener, 77-69, to Oregon State Thursday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Marcus Evans led the squad with 18 points and four rebounds. Egor Koulechov had 16 points, all of which came in the second half and Marquez Letcher-Ellis had a season-high 12 points. Max Guercy added five points, nine assists and a game-high seven rebounds.
"I think there was a level of fight that we had today and aggressiveness that's a good thing," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "Hopefully, it's a precursor for how we're going to play the rest of the year. We raised the bar today with this team. Now we have to keep it there and start raising it more."
Oregon State opened the second half on an 8-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 52-33. A pair of threes by Evans and Koulechov bookended an Evans free throw to get Rice to within 12 points, 52-40. Over the next five and a half minutes, the teams traded buckets.
With the Beavers holding a 61-47 lead, Rice went on a 9-2 run, capped off by a Koulechov three that brought the Owls to within seven points with seven minutes to play, the first time they were within single-digits since the 1:12 mark of the first half.
The teams battled over the final seven minutes. Rice got to within seven points three more times. But, each time, the Beavers extended their lead. With 16 to play, Koulechov hit his fourth three-pointer of the half to get the Owls to within 75-69. Rice had two more cracks from behind the arc, but could not get them to go and Oregon State held on for the victory.
Added Rhoades, "I thought some of our freshmen really stepped up and showed what we expect of them and what they expect of themselves. Now, we have to have carry-over from this game into practice tomorrow and get ready for Sunday."
Andrew Drone started the game converting on a three-point play. After a Langston Morris-Walker three-pointer, Guercy hit his first three of the year. Morris-Walker hit another three, but Marcus Evans drove in for a layup and an 8-6 lead.
Gary Payton II tied the game at eight, and Malcom Duvivier made a three to give the Beavers an 11-8 lead. However, jumpers by Guercy and Evans sent Rice on a 10-1 run as the Owls grabbed its largest lead of the game, 18-12, eight minutes into the game.
A three-pointer by Stephen Thompson, Jr., and a pair of Tres Tinkle free throws pulled OSU to within one point. But Connor Cashaw found Letcher-Ellis for a three-pointer to push the lead back to four points.
After the teams traded layups, Payton hit a layup and Evans made one-of-two free throws. But, back-to-back three's gave Oregon State the lead.
Evans then converted a three-point play to tie the game at 27 with 6:34 to play in the first half. But, Bishop Mency was called for a technical foul. Tinkle made both free throws followed by a Payton three-point play as OSU grabbed a five-point lead.
Evans got it to within three points with 6:05 to play. But, Rice was just one-of-six from the floor in the final six minutes as the Beavers closed the half on a 12-4 run for a 44-33 halftime lead.
Rice shot 44.9% (22-of-49) from the field, but was just 8-of-26 (30.8%) from three. Oregon State shot 52.0% (26-of-50) from the floor and was 45.5% (10-of-22) from behind the arc.
Rice continues a five-game homestand this Sunday, Nov. 22, when it hosts Fresno State. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.