HOUSTON, Texas--Rice withstood a furious rally from UC Riverside to win its second consecutive game, 87-81, Friday night at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Egor Koulechov had game-highs of 18 points and eight rebounds. Marquez Letcher-Ellis had season-highs of 17 points and seven boards. Max Guercy recorded 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Andrew Drone added 13 points.
"We beat a very good team at home today," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "I'm very proud of our guys. I thought we finally put a full game together. We did a good job coming out of halftime, which we've been struggling with. I'm really proud of our effort and really proud of our approach. I thought the guys did a super job of playing together and put some great stretches together. We were led by Max (Guercy) and Egor (Koulechov) and I thought a lot of guys really stepped up."
Rice led 61-56 with 13:44 to play in the game. The Owls then went on a 13-4 run over the next 5:24 to take its largest lead of the game at 74-60. UCR scored six straight points to pull to within eight, but Koulechov hit his third three-pointer of the game to push the lead to 77-66 with six minutes left.
Secean Johnson made a layup before the Owls made three-of four free throws. Johnson drove in for an uncontested dunk, but Guercy made two free throws to give Rice an 82-70 lead with 3:05 to play.
However, the Highlanders wouldn't go away. Jaylen Bland drained a three. After Letcher-Ellis turned it over, Malik Thames made a jumper. A minute later, UCR forced Guercy into a turnover and Johnson went in for a layup, was fouled, and converted the three-point play to get UC Riverside to within 82-78 with 1:28 left.
But, Marcus Evans found Drone underneath the basket for a layup. Drone was fouled on the play and made his free throw. After Bland missed a three-pointer, Evans was fouled and made both free throws. Gentrey Thomas then hit a three with 14 seconds left, but UCR would get no closer.
Rice scored four of the first five points in the game. After a UCR basket, Koulechov hit a three. But, Johnson converted a three-point play and then made one of two free throws to tie the game at seven.
A jumper by Connor Cashaw followed by layup from Koulechov and Guercy gave Rice a 13-7 lead six minutes into the game.
After a Thames three-pointer, the teams traded points over the next five minutes. Bland then made a layup and after a Mency missed three-pointer, Primitivo Gomez made four straight free throws to give the Highlanders a 28-27 lead. Guercy made two from the charity stripe, by a Bland three give UCR a 31-29 lead with 6:19 to play in the half.
Rice scored five straight points, but a Thomas three tied the game at 34. The Owls went up two on free throws from Bishop Mency and Drone but Thomas tied it again.
After trading baskets, Rice went on an 8-0 run to take a 46-38 lead with 1:07 left in the half. Gomez hit a pair of free throws and Letcher-Ellis hit a jumper. But, a Thames jumper sent Rice into halftime leading 48-42.
The Owls shot 49.1% (26-of-53) from the field and just 31.8% (7-of-22) from three. Rice was also 28-of-37 (75.7%) from the charity stripe. UCR shot 41.7% (25-of-60) from the floor and 37.5% (9-of-24) from three. Rice also won the rebounding battle for the first time this year, 39-to-37.
Rice closes the homestand this Sunday, Nov. 29 when it takes on UT-Arlington. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.