HOUSTON, Texas--Houston Baptist outscored Rice 24-12 in the final eight minutes to turn an eight-point deficit into a 77-73 victory, Wednesday night at Sharp Gym.
Marcus Evans led the Owls with 28 points, six rebounds and four assists. Egor Koulechov scored 21 points, including 18 in the first half. Connor Cashaw had nine points and a season-high nine rebounds and Marquez Letcher-Ellis added five blocks.
"We lost focus," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We got the eight point lead and then we had some defensive lapses. It was a lack of discipline on the defensive end that gave them some freebies. We put them on the line. We had missed assignments on the defensive end."
With 7:29 to play, Evans stepped in front of a Colter Lasher pass and went in for a dunk to put Rice ahead, 61-53. Jourdan Stickler then found Cody Stetler for a layup was fouled and hit his free throw to make it a five-point game.
After a missed shot from Koulechov, Lasher's layup got the Huskies to within 61-58 with 6:31 to play. A minute later, Koulechov made one-of two free throws to push the lead to four. Houston Baptist turned it over, but Evans gave it right back and Lasher brought it two points.
Cashaw made one-of-two from the line, but Reveal Chukwujekwu's jumper got the Huskies to within one point. Evans made one-of-two free throws, but Anthony Odunsi tied the game with two free throws of his own with 3:20 left in the game.
Koulechov missed a three and Odunsi found Josh Ibarra down low for a layup and HBU's first lead since the 10:56 mark of the first half. After a turnover by Bishop Mency, Odunsi hit a 28-foot three with time winding down on the shot clock to give Houston Baptist a 69-64 lead with 2:07 remaining.
On the ensuing possession, Max Guercy was fouled, but made just one of the two free throws. Two straight turnovers by HBU led Evans to get Rice within one point with a three-pointer with a minute to play.
After two Odunsi free throws, Evans hit a jumper from the free throw line to get back within one point. Odunsi made two free throws to push the lead back three with 19 seconds remaining. Koulechov miss what would have been a tying three. Chukwujekwu got the rebound, was fouled and made the ensuing foul shots. Evans made a three with 1.9 seconds left. The Owls immediately fouled Odunsi, but he hit both free throws to seal the victory.
Added Rhoades, "Until we get more disciplined as a team, especially on the defensive end, we're going to experience things like this. I thought we played good defense in the first half and then we got the offense going in the second half. But, really, the last five minutes of the game, we didn't get stops and we gave them some easy ones. They earned it. They played better than us down the stretched. But, I thought we gave it to them as well. Until we stop beating ourselves, we're going to be in this position."
Rice connected on 41.5% (22-of-53) from the field and 35.0% (7-of-20) from three. Houston Baptist connected on 47.2% (25-of-53) from the floor and just 30.0% (3-of-10) from three. But, hit 24-of-30 (80.0%) from the free throw line, including a perfect 17-of-17 in the second half, while the Owls were just 22-of-32 (68.8%) from the charity stripe.
Odunsi led the Huskies with 26 points, including connecting on 15-of-16 from the free throw line.
Rice returns home before taking a break for exams this Saturday, Dec. 2, when it hosts St. Edward's. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.