Rice men’s basketball bounced back from its first loss of the season by defeating Alabama A&M University on Monday by a score of 73-59. Head coach Scott Pera said that he was happy with the team’s performance in the game’s final minutes.
“I'm really, really proud of how we finished that game,” Pera said. “This team is showing signs, now through the exhibition season and playing a couple of live games that they're handling things better with a lead down the stretch.”
Rice led for most of the game, but there were a couple of moments in the second half when the Owls’ advantage narrowed before they closed the game decisively.
The starting lineup for the Owls remained the same from the first two games of the season. Rice began the game strong, getting out to a nine-point lead within the first four minutes. Graduate forward Jack Williams and junior guard Ako Adams were the catalysts for Rice’s big start with seven and six points in that stretch, respectively.
Statistically speaking, Adams had his best game in a Rice uniform. He put up career-highs in points with 22 and rebounds with 7 and tied his career high in three-pointers made with 5. According to Adams, his output in the game was the result of hard work in practice.
“I’ve just been in a gym, trusting my shot,” Adams said. “My teammates have trust in me; [they] keep telling me to keep shooting. I had a bad shooting night against [the University of Pennsylvania], so they keep my confidence up.”
Rice’s highlight of the first half came from freshman guard Chris Mullins. Mullins stole the ball and had a wide-open court ahead of him. He rose up and dunked the ball ferociously, causing the mostly-full student section to erupt with excitement. Going into the locker room at halftime, the Owls led the Bulldogs 36-26.
Alabama A&M shifted momentum after halftime. With 13 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs narrowed the Owls’ lead to only three points after being down by double digits for most of the first half. Rice was able to pull away in the final stretch as Adams and junior guard Robert Martin made clutch 3-pointers to extend the lead. Martin continued his hot start to the season with 13 points and five rebounds.
The Owls’ defense also helped seal the game down the stretch. In the last six minutes of the game, Rice did not allow a single Alabama A&M field goal. Pera said that he was thrilled with the way his team played defense.
“We were really locked in defensively,” Pera said. “I'm really also proud of our defensive effort tonight. [Alabama A&M shot] 35.9 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three and [we] held [the] team to 59 points. And if you do that, no matter what happens on offense, you're going to have a chance to win. I’m just happy that our guys are really starting to really buy into that defensive end and knowing the importance of making stops.”
Rice next takes on its crosstown rival, the University of Houston. The Owls face the Cougars on Wednesday at UH’s temporary home court on the campus of Texas Southern University.