By: Tim Andrzejewski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Junior Connor Cashaw had a team-high 14 points with seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore Robert Martin had 11 points and freshman Najja Hunter scored a career-high 11 points with six rebounds. Sophomore Tim Harrison had a season-high 10 points and freshman Malik Osborne added a career-high 13 rebounds.
Miles Lester opened the scoring with a three-pointer. UTSA scored nine of the next 12 points, but Martin tied the game at nine 5:47 into the game.
After the teams traded baskets, Rice turned the ball over seven times over the next 7:28 while missing three shots as UTSA went on a 13-1 run to take its largest lead of the half, 24-12. Cashaw got Rice back on the board with his second three-pointer and a pair of free throws to pull within seven points. But the Roadrunners scored six of the next seven points to push its lead to 30-18 with 2:50 to play in the half.
Martin made a layup but Jhivvan Jackson made one-of-two free throws. Osborne drove in for a layup but Giovanni De Nicolao drilled a three. Martin then answered with a three of his own as Rice went into halftime trailing 34-25.
"I thought in the first half, we had a chance once again," said Rice head coach Scott Pera. "If we make a couple free throws and are smarter taking care of the ball, the game could have been around a three-point game. But it was nine (at halftime) and we were fighting uphill again."
UTSA scored the first six points of the half but Rice answered with seven straight. After a UTSA basket, Bishop Mency drained a three to get Rice within 42-35 just 4:35 into the second half.
However, Rice went cold, missing eight of its next nine shots as the Roadrunners went on a 17-3 run over the next 5:54 to take its largest lead of the game, 59-38. The Owls would get no closer than 11 points with just 21 seconds remaining in the game.
Pera added, "We had a good little four or five minutes of the second half to make it a (seven) point game. But we made mistakes. (UTSA) had guys make shots. They made the plays and they deserved to win."
Rice shot just 39.2% (20-of-51) from the floor while connecting on 44.0% (11-of-25) from three. UTSA connected on 43.5% (27-of-62) from the field and 37.5% (12-of-32) from beyond the arc. The Owls outrebounded UTSA, 40-to-39, but the Roadrunners scored 34 points off of 21 Rice turnovers.
Rice continues its conference-opening road trip this Saturday, Dec. 30, when it travels to El Paso to face UTEP. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and the game will be livestreamed at CUSA.tv.