HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball put together a team effort in its returns from final exams for a 72-61 victory over St. Thomas on Thursday at Tudor Fieldhouse. A raucous crowd of 4,502 packed the arena for the second-annual School House Mania, including more than 3,800 students from local schools.
Andrew Drone carried the offense early on and finished with his first double-double with career highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds. The sophomore connected on 5-of-6 field goal attempts and 6-of-7 free throws in 23 minutes of action off the bench. Seth Gearhart also posted a double-double with 13 points and a career-best 11 rebounds. The senior shot 4-of-9 from the field with a pair of three-pointers to accompany two assists and a block.
It was the 200th career win for head coach Mike Rhoades, including 197 in 10 seasons at Randolph-Macon College. After the game, he said, "That atmosphere today was the goal. We're going to be demanding of everyone here at Rice to try to fill the gym up like that all the time. We've got to work really hard to put a product on the court so that everyone will come in and create that environment over and over again. That was a lot of fun. I'm really proud of our guys. We didn't shoot the ball well in the first half but stuck to the game plan and things got going, especially in the second half as we made some shots. I thought we did a good job with 15 assists on 23 baskets. Our guys really shared the ball well."
Fueled in part by the raucous crowd, the Owls got off to a strong start with an early 11-2 lead on 5-of-9 shooting. Rice then worked up to a 24-8 lead later in the half behind Drone's 16 points in the frame. The Owls took a 33-17 advantage into the intermission with a 27-13 edge on the glass.
The Owls carried momentum through the break with a 21-4 run to open second half and take a 54-21 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the game. The Owls rotated in a number of players for the remainder of the game as 13 players saw action on the afternoon. UST made a late run with eight second-half three-pointers on just 10 attempts to pull within 11 points in the final seconds.
In his first start, freshman Bishop Mency matched a season high with 13 points, including three treys. He added five rebounds in 27 minutes on the court. Marcus Jackson also notched double-figure points with 12 on 4-of-10 shooting. The sophomore sank a pair of three-pointers while hauling in five rebounds and matching a team high with three assists without a turnover. Max Guercy added three assists of his own to accompany six points and a pair of steals in 20 minutes of action.
Rice owned a 45-23 advantage on the glass in the game and converted 19 offensive boards into 26 second-chance points. The Owls scored 22 points in the paint and turned 16 UST miscues into 16 points.
Rice wraps up December with a pair of road games, beginning on Dec. 22 at Lamar. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Beaumont.
NOTES: Along with Mency, freshman Nate Pollard made his first start of the season ... freshman J.T. Trauber made his collegiate debut in the final two minutes of the game ... the guard knocked down a three-pointer for his first-career points ... Rice had used the same starting lineup for the first eight games of the season ... Rice's 17 first-half points allowed were a season low ... the Owls' 11 three-pointers set a season high.