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Men's basketball loses home opener on late miss

By Madison Buzzard     11/20/16 7:28pm

A game winning 3-point attempt by Marcus Evans bounced out and the Rice University men’s basketball team fell to crosstown rival Texas Southern University 71-68 in a Wednesday night game in Tudor Fieldhouse.

Four Owls scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Marcus Evans led Rice with 22 points, adding five rebounds and five assists. Junior forward Egor Koulechov scored 14 points while hauling in seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Connor Cashaw also posited 12 points and freshman forward Corey Douglas notched 11 points and nine rebounds in his first start.

Rice compiled lower field goal and 3-point percentages against Texas Southern than it did in its opening game against James Madison, shooting 25-of-61 from the field (41 percent) and 8-of-26 from 3-point range (31 percent). The Owls also coughed up 22 turnovers and accounted for 18 personal fouls, leading to 24 free throw attempts by the visiting Tigers. Rice held Texas Southern to 23-of-73 shooting from the field (32 percent) and 4-of-25 from behind the 3-point line (16 percent).

Head coach Mike Rhoades said that although he was pleased with the way his players fought to stay in the game, poor execution ruined the team's chances of winning.

"We had a chance to win the game,” Rhoades said. “I thought we played well. We played harder late in the game to get back in it even though we were never out of it. We were just careless with the ball. We have to do a better job of minimizing negative plays."

Rice darted out to a 7-2 lead in the first two minutes thanks to a layup by Evans and five points by Douglas. Texas Southern quickly responded, tying the game at nine apiece due in part to a three-point shot by junior guard Zach Lofton.

Even though Lofton put up 17 points in the first half alone, Rice led at the half, 35-31. Douglas, Cashaw and sophomore forward Marquez Letcher Ellis each swatted away a block apiece in the half, constantly altering the Tigers’ shot attempts in the lane. According to Rhoades, Letcher-Ellis offered the Owls intensity and a strong defensive presence.

“I thought [Letcher-Ellis] played really well today,” Rhoades said. “He gave us great energy and played great defense. Even when he didn’t get the rebounds he still fought hard to keep the play alive.”

Evans said that the interior presence was a key to the Owls’ defensive success in the first half.

“Having guys like Corey [Douglas] and Marquez [Letcher-Ellis] helps when we are trying to protect the rim,” Evans said. “We have to do a better job of staying in front of the guards so they can’t drive into the lane.”

Lofton and Jackson traded 3-pointers to start the second half. Texas Southern promptly rattled off a 14-3 run, sparked by six points from junior guard Kevin Scott. The Owls hung close but trailed the rest of the way as Texas Southern moved to 2-1 and Rice dropped to 1-1 on the season.

Rhoades said the game is a learning experience for the entire team.

“You have to learn from every game,” Rhoades said. “It stinks, but you always learn more from games you lose. That’s just how it goes. We have a lot of young guys, a lot of depth and guys that can play. But we have to play smarter and make sure we don’t beat ourselves.”

Evans also said he was disappointed with the result, especially the last sequence.

“On the last play, the shot just didn’t fall,” Evans said. “I would have loved to get in the lane. The game is over and we can’t change it. We just have to move on to the next game and put our focus on that.”

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