By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Rice fell to UNLV, 95-68, in the First Round of the MGM Grand Main Event at T-Mobile Arena.
Graduate guard A.J. Lapray scored a team-high 15 points behind three three-pointers. Sophomore guard Robert Martin tied a career-high 14 points and junior guard Connor Cashaw added 13. Freshman Malik Osborne pulled down a team and career-high nine rebounds.
"Obviously, if you don't make shots, you're going to struggle," said Rice head coach Scott Pera. "We made shots at Northwestern State and we scored 87. Tonight, we had good shots (but) they didn't go in. So, you have to be extra good on the defensive end, you have to do a really good job on the glass, and we didn't. We did some things to try to combat their size and they made some shots."
After Tim Harrison hit a three, UNLV made two baskets to push the lead to 11. Lapray cut the deficit to eight with a three, but the Rebels scored eight of the next 10 points.
Martin made a jumper, but the Owls missed their next six shots, as UNLV went on an 18-2 run to take its largest lead of the half, 46-18, with 4:26 to play in the half.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the way, as Rice went into halftime trailing, 51-24.
The Rebels scored the first six points of the second half to take its largest lead of the game at 58-24. Rice would cut the deficit to 22, but could get no closer as the teams played an even second half.
Rice connected on just 35.6% from the field and 32.0% from three while UNLV shot 49.3% from the floor and 37.0% from three. The Owls were 72.7% from the free throw line but were outrebounded, 51-to-35.
"We can't forget this game," said Rice head coach Scott Pera. "We have to remember why the first half happened and why we played better in the second half. Obviously, (UNLV) is a very good team. They deserve all the credit. But, our teaching moment is that we played much better in the second half of playing harder, doing some of the things that we worked on and that's when we had some success."
Rice closes out the MGM Grand Main Event this Wednesday, Nov. 22. The Owls will play Ole Miss in the consolation game. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.