By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Junior Connor Cashaw recorded his second double-double of the year, tying a career-high with 27 points while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds. Senior Bishop Mency scored a career-high 21 points on five three-pointers and pulled down eight rebounds while freshman Najja Hunter added career marks of nine points and seven boards.
Rice led 50-36 heading into the second half. SEU scored seven of the first 10 points to cut the deficit to 10 just three minutes into the half. The game went back and forth over the next four minutes.
With Rice leading 67-57, the Hilltoppers scored seven of the next eight points to pull within four points. However, Rice went on a 7-0 run to take a 75-64 lead with 9:26 to play.
SEU's Dillon Young answered with a three. Rice hit four straight free throws but the Hilltoppers made two baskets. Malik Osborne then hit one-of-two from the charity stripe to give Rice an 80-71 lead with 7:29 remaining.
But Rice turned the ball over on its next two possessions as St. Edwards scored eight straight points over the next 1:25 to pull within one point. The Owls answered back, scoring seven straight to push the lead to 87-79 with 3:32 to play.
After trading three-pointers, SEU made back-to-back baskets to get within four points with 49 seconds to play. But the Hilltoppers would get no closer.
Rice jumped out to an early 7-4 lead. The Owls scored six straight, but SEU answered with seven straight points to pull within 13-11, 5:11 into the game.
Baskets by Cashaw and Robert Martin pushed the lead to six, but the Hilltoppers made it a one-point game two minutes later. However, Rice went on a 17-5 run over the next 3:58 to take a 32-19 lead.
After a Corey Shervill layup, the Owls scored nine of the next 13 points to take their largest lead of the game, 41-25 with 3:49 to play in the half. St. Edward's cut the deficit to 10, but Rice scored seven of the final 10 points to lead by 14 at the break.
"Obviously, I thought we got off to a good start today," said Rice head coach Scott Pera. "(It was) 13-4 out of the gate. (St. Edward's) fought back but then we did a good job of expanding the lead and had a good cushion at halftime. But, I knew that they weren't going to stop. They're a very well coached team. They had our attention. We knew it was going to be a battle until the end. I thought our guys made some winning plays down the stretch. I'm really proud of Bishop and Connor's effort today."
Rice connected on 48.4% (30-of-62) from the field but just 29.2% (7-of-24) from three. St. Edward's shot 44.6% (33-of-74) from the floor and 37.5% (12-of-32) from three. However, Rice outscored the Hilltoppers, 24-to-8 from the free throw line.
Rice begins a stretch of four of the next five games on the road this Saturday, Dec. 16 when it travels to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.