AUSTIN, Texas - Rice University men's basketball gave No. 9 Texas all it could handle for a full 40 minutes before a late run gave the Longhorns a 66-55 win over the Owls on Monday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center. Senior Seth Gearhart scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Blue and Gray.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, "I was proud of our guys today. They did a great job of following the game plan and scouting report. Our plan was to come in here and take really good care of the ball, but play fast at times. I thought we did a really good job today and we raised the bar for our program. It's tough coming on the road to a place like this and playing against one of the best teams in the country at a level that we aspire to get to, so I'm very proud of our team."
Trailing 53-51 with less than six minutes to play, the Owls attempted three long-range shots to take their first lead of the second half. Each of the three-pointers missed the mark, and Texas then regrouped to score the next nine points and take its first double-figure lead of the game. Overall, the Longhorns closed the game on a 13-4 run to end Rice's hopes for the win.
Gearhart came alive in the second half, scoring six of the team's first nine points as the Owls began to chip away at their 29-22 halftime deficit. The senior scored 19 points after the break including three of his treys that kept the visitors within striking distance.
The first half featured six lead changes as the Owls worked up to three different three-point leads in the opening 15 minutes. After a two-handed dunk by Maurice Rivers put Rice ahead by a 22-19 margin, Texas scored the final 10 points of the period to regain control at the intermission. Rivers finished with six points on 3-of-3 shooting to accompany four rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.
Marcus Jackson scored all 10 of his points in the opening 20 minutes to help carry the offense in the early going. The sophomore led the team with five assists and a career-high four steals without committing any turnovers in 33 minutes of action.
As a team, the Owls shot 42.0 percent from the field, including a 43.3 percent clip in the second half. The team knocked down 8-of-25 three-pointers and 5-of-6 free throws. The Longhorns made 17-of-27 free throws in the game to accompany a 43.4 field goal mark.
Texas held a 39-25 lead in rebounds in the game, including 18 offensive boards that became 18 second-chance points. The Owls forced 16 turnovers - including 11 steals - for 11 points. Jonathan Holmes notched a double-double for UT with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Rice returns home to open Conference USA play on Friday, Jan. 2 when UTSA visits Tudor Fieldhouse. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.
NOTES: During the game, C-USA announced that Bishop Mency was named the league's Freshman of the Week for the second time this season ... Mency racked up 17 points and six rebounds in 41 minutes at Lamar in Rice's lone game during the week.