Despite a career-high 30 points from junior guard Connor Cashaw, the Rice men’s basketball team dropped the seventh game of their last eight as the University of North Texas defeated Rice on Saturday, 85-78.
In their previous game, the Owls defeated the University of North Carolina, Charlotte by nine points. Sophomore guard Ako Adams and freshman forward Malik Osborne both recorded career highs in scoring, with 18 and 20 points respectively. But before the win against the Charlotte 49ers, the Owls had lost six games in a row: three by double-digits. Their last win prior to the six-game losing streak came against St. Edward’s University, a Division II school.
Rice is currently 4-14 on the season and 1-4 in Conference USA play, which puts the Owls in a tie for 12th out of 14 teams. The top 12 teams qualify for the conference tournament each year. The Owls still have 13 games remaining in the C-USA season.
Despite the team’s record, some leaders have emerged in recent games. Entering Saturday’s contest against the North Texas Mean Green, Cashaw was averaging 15.9 points on the season and 6.7 rebounds per game, an improvement over last year’s eight points and 5.3 boards per game. Among others, Adams also increased his scoring this year, from averaging three points per game last season to averaging nine points per game this season.
For much of Saturday’s loss to North Texas, the Owls were unable to guard against 3-point shots. The Mean Green made 17 3-pointers on 35 attempts, with 10 of them coming from sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart. According to Cashaw, making adjustments is essential to tightening the defense beyond the arc.
“We [have] to do a better job of learning from our mistakes in game and not making the same mistakes,” Cashaw said.
Assistant coach Mark Linebaugh said North Texas’ offense benefited from spacing the floor.
“They stretched us a little bit,” Linebaugh said. “We were just a step slow.”
The Mean Green’s largest lead of the night came in the second half with 11 minutes and 46 seconds left, after Smart hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 12. Though the Owls clawed back, cutting the lead to only three on a Cashaw layup with two minutes and 36 seconds left in the game, the Owls could not complete the comeback as the Mean Green handed the Owls their 14th loss of the season.
When asked about the team’s comeback, Linebaugh said he was impressed with the players’ effort.
“I’m proud of our guys for fighting and keeping themselves in the game,” Linebaugh said.
The Owls will look to learn from their game against North Texas and improve defensively as they head to the University of Southern Mississippi on Jan. 18 to play the Golden Eagles at 7 p.m.