ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --Egor Koulechov's free throw with 0.1 seconds left erased a 17-point second half deficit and gave Rice a 90-89 victory Saturday night at The Pit.
Koulechov scored a career-high 32 points on 6-of-10 from three, including 24 points in the second half. Marcus Evans scored 21 points, his fourth straight 20-point game, and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds. Connor Cashaw added 14 points.
"I'm so proud of these guys," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "I don't know if I've ever been so proud of a team then I am right now. We talked about coming in here and being grimy and gritty and just fighting like crazy. That's what we did. And the end, even when we got down (17), our guys said `Okay, let's try to cut it to 10 at the next timeout'. They just kept plugging (away) and scored 10 points in 40 seconds. One thing we can do, this team, is we can score. As we get better and better on the defensive end, we're going to have some fun opportunities like we did tonight."
Cullen Neal hit a three-pointer with 6:07 to play to put the Lobos up 80-65. Cashaw hit a three. Marquez Letcher-Ellis then stepped in front of Tim Williams' pass. Koulechov found Evans who drove in for a layup, was fouled and converted the three-point play to get Rice within nine.
On UNM's next possession, Letcher-Ellis stepped in front of Neal's pass and drove the length of the court for a layup. Neal then missed the front end of a one-and-one. Evans got the ball and drove in for another layup to pull the Owls to within 80-75 with 5:16 to play.
Obij Aget made one-of-two free throws and after Aget blocked Letcher-Ellis' shot, Elijah Brown hit a jumper to push the lead to eight. After Evans made a jumper, Aget made one-of-two from three. Rice got a stop and Evans found Koulechov for a three. Cashaw then stole the ball from Tim Jacobs and hit Evans for a dunk.
Evans then fouled out with 44 seconds left and Brown made one-of-two. Koulechov then drove in, was fouled, and made both fouls shots to get within one. Brown was then fouled made both free throws with 32 seconds left. But, Koulechov tied the game with his sixth three of the game with 21 seconds left.
UNM brought the ball up, but Brown threw the ball away with 13 seconds left. After a New Mexico timeout, Koulechov brought the ball up, drove in before shooting a jumper that hit the front of the rim. New Mexico got the rebound and called a timeout with 0.1 seconds on the clock. However, UNM was out of timeouts, forcing a technical foul and one free throw. Koulechov stepped to the line and made the free throw, giving Rice the victory.
Added Rhoades, "What a place to come here. That's why I brought them here; to be in The Pit and throw them in the fire. What a great response. I thought some guys that got in foul trouble, didn't play great but had great resolve. Everybody just really contributed. I'm just so proud of them."
Rice shot 45.3% (29-of-64) from the field, including 40.7% (11-of-27) from three. New Mexico shot 30-of-59 (50.8%) from the floor and 7-of-19 (36.8%) from three. Rice scored 28 points of 18 UNM turnovers.
Rice plays its second straight road game next Tuesday, Dec. 22, when it travels to Mobile, Ala, to face South Alabama. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.