Rice men’s basketball failed to score in the first six minutes of the first half and Georgia State University coasted to a 75-54 victory in a Tuesday night matchup at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Despite the anemic offensive start, Rice tied the game at 5-5 with 13:16 left in the first half with a three-pointer from senior guard Bishop Mency. That bucket prompted an uproar from the student section and Rice head coach Scott Pera, who said he thought his team had settled down and found its rhythm. Contrary to Pera’s belief, however, the Owls followed Mency’s tying basket with six consecutive missed field goals and six turnovers to give a 22-7 lead to the Panthers during a game-altering seven minute run.
Pera said turnovers ruined Rice’s chances of making the game competitive.
“It’s hard [to preach confidence after a slow start] but you have no choice,” Pera said. “The good thing was the score was only 5-0. We made two buckets and we tied it at 5-5. I thought we had settled down but obviously I was wrong. They continued to cause us problems. We had a heck of a time with travelling calls and turnovers. When that lead becomes 9, 10, 11, you can’t have turnovers and those killed us.”
Rice trailed Georgia State, 42-27 at halftime. The Panthers extended their lead to 53-30 with 14:30 left in the second half and never relinquished the advantage. The Owls failed to narrow the lead to less than 15 despite a 4-of-5 three-point shooting outburst from senior guard A.J. Lapray in the second half. Pera said Lapray’s performance is one positive to take from a game where his starters shot a combined 6-of-25 (24 percent) from the field.
Junior guard Connor Cashaw said he didn’t let his 1-of-7 shooting output prevent him from remaining aggressive on the offensive end. According to Cashaw, the Owls’ lack of intensity instead came on the defensive end, where they offered Georgia State open looks in the paint and the perimeter at will.
“We got great looks, sometimes it just doesn’t go in,” Cashaw said. “The flipside of that is defense, what are we doing on the other end? We are going to learn from this, and make those improvements on defense and go from there.”
Sophomore guard Ako Adams said he was also frustrated with the lack of defensive effort his team offered.
“It’s tough [to not score in the first six minutes],” Adams said. “Shots didn’t go in early. We just need to do better on defense when the shots aren’t going in and contest shots. We didn’t do that tonight.”
Georgia State, led by head coach Ron Hunter, made the NCAA tournament in 2015, defeating Baylor University in one of the most shocking upsets in recent college basketball history. Pera said he recognized this would be a difficult game for Rice to win because of Hunter’s coaching experience and the Panthers’ leadership.
“They have a veteran group that I think will compete for the league championship,” Pera said. “That’s no excuse for us. We need to be better, play better, coach better. We will get back to work tomorrow.”