Men's first win of 2008 will have to come in fall
On the same night that one Houston basketball team won its 20th game in a row, another dropped its 20th consecutive contest. The men's basketball team's season came to an end Wednesday in a disappointing yet telling way, as Rice dropped a 59-50 contest against the University of Southern Mississippi in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament in Memphis, Tenn. The defeat ended what could be claimed as the program's worst season in its history - not only did the Owls (3-26, 0-16 C-USA) become the first team ever in C-USA not to win a single conference game, but they failed to win any games at all in 2008.However, the dismal record may be a bit deceptive. Prior to their season-ending loss, the Owls lost three hard-fought games during spring break. After trailing by more than 16 points in the first half, the Owls closed to within two points late in the second half before folding 68-60 to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla. Later in the week, senior forward Patrick Britton scored a career high 40 points on 14-18 shooting, but the Owls lost 75-68 to East Carolina University at home.
Finally, in what looked like their best chance to break their losing streak, the Owls lost a 61-58 game to Southern Methodist University in Katy, Texas. Rice scored just 15 points in the first half but strung together a furious rally, outscoring the Mustangs (10-20, 4-12 C-USA) 44-33 in the second half. A bucket from Britton brought the Owls to 59-58 with 40 seconds remaining, but Jon Killen's free throws allowed SMU to pull out the win.
"It's tough to put this game into the immediate context because of all of the things that we've been through over the course of the year," head coach Willis Wilson (Will Rice '82) said. "The last six of our last seven games, we've been in dogfights like this going down the stretch only to come up short."
Britton, who put in a solid 16-point effort, had similar sentiments.
"It was a competitive game and you always want to come away with wins like that, but there's not much to say about that," Britton said.
The game against the Golden Eagles (19-13, 9-7 C-USA) on Wednesday served as a microcosm of the season: The Owls fell behind early and, after fighting back to within a possession, could not find the killing stroke. Southern Miss led 29-17 at the break and opened up a 41-27 lead midway through the second half. The Owls, however, went on a 15-4 run to cut the lead to 46-42 with five minutes remaining. A layup by sophomore guard Bryan Beasley made the score 51-48 with 2:26 left, but that was as close as Rice could get.
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