PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Pittsburgh shot 77.8% in the second half as Rice dropped an 83-73 decision to the Panthers Saturday night.
Marcus Jackson led the Owls with a season-high 20 points, while also pulling down a team-high five rebounds. Marcus Evans scored 19 points and had four assists and Egor Koulechov added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“I’m proud of our effort,” said head coach Mike Rhoades. “(Pittsburgh) was scorching us in the second half. We needed to try to string a couple stops together late. We were still getting the ball to the basket and making some plays. I thought we had a chance. We had some pretty quick baskets and got to the free throw line. We just couldn’t convert.”
Rice (8-3) trailed, 41-37 at the half. A jumper by Jackson brought the Owls to within two points, but Pitt went on a 9-2 run to take a 50-41 lead. After Evans made one-of-two free throws, the teams went almost three minutes without scoring. Koulechov broke the stalemate with a layup and then Evans scored six straight points to tie the game at 50 with 11:58 to play.
However, Jamel Artis scored five straight points and Jonathan Milligan drilled a three to cap off an 8-0 run and give Pitt a 58-50 lead. The Owls could get no closer than four points the rest of the way as
Cameron Johnson got things started for Pitt (9-2) with a jumper, but five straight points by Jackson gave Rice an early 5-2 lead. Michael Young converted a three-point play to tie the game, but Evans hit Corey Douglas under the basket for a layup. Jamel Artis connected on a jumper and two free throws to give the Panthers the lead, but Marquez Letcher-Ellis tied the game at nine 4:05 into the game.
Luther made a layup and Johnson hit a three, but Letcher-Ellis responded with a three of his own. After another basket by Luther, Rice got baskets from Evans and Koulechov to tie the game at 16 with 12:17 to play.
After the teams traded baskets, Luther hit a three. The teams again traded baskets and Jackson hit a driving layup. The teams then traded three-pointers, but Pitt scored five straight to take a 31-25 lead. Rice cut the deficit to two on a layup by Koulechov and two Evans free throws. However, Pitt went on a 10-4 run to take its largest lead of the half, 41-33, with 1:40 remaining. But the Owls scored the final four points of the half to head into the break trailing, 41-37.
Rice shot 45.6% (26-of-57) from the field but just 30.8% (8-of-26) from three and 56.5% (13-of-23) from the free throw line. Pitt was 29-of-45 (64.4%) from the field, 9-of-18 (50.0%) from three and 16-of-19 (84.2%) from the charity stripe.
Rice returns home for a two-game homestand next Monday, Dec. 19, when it hosts Northwestern State. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed at CUSA.tv.