Men's Basketball has an off day against SMU
Less than two weeks removed from an outing in which the Rice men's basketball team scored 54 points in a single half, the Owls (519, 1-9) were unable to match such offensive output in a frustrating conference defeat. Hosting the Southern Methodist University Mustangs (13-12, 3-7) last Saturday, Rice had its worst shooting day of the season in a 61-39 defeat at Tudor Fieldhouse. The Owls came out with a game plan to attack offensively from the perimeter, converting on four out of 13 attempts from behind the 3-point line in the first half. But Rice simply could not produce any offense from inside the arc, scoring just two points in the paint over the first 20 minutes against SMU. Led by legendary NCAA and NBA Head Coach Larry Brown, the Mustangs took a 26-17 lead at the half. Sophomore guard Julian DeBose and senior guard Tamir Jackson each reached double digits in scoring for Rice, but the Owls struggled all day from the field and were unable to bring the deficit within single digits in the second half. The team shot just 19.6 percent (10 for 51) from the field for the game, falling at home on an offense-deprived evening.
Head Coach Ben Braun's squad was much more competitive on the road Wednesday when it traveled to take on Marshall University (11-14, 4-6) for another league tilt. The Owls and Thundering Herd played to a 33-33 tie at halftime, and Jackson and junior guard Austin Ramljak combined for 22 points in the first half. Rice took the lead late in an incredibly close second half when freshman forward Ross Wilson's layup with 3:53 remaining made it a 61-60 game. But after Marshall scored four straight points from the line, Jackson was forced out of the game with an eye injury in the closing minutes. Freshman guard Keith Washington entered the game and scored layups on back-to-back possessions, but Marshall responded with a corner 3 and iced the game with free throws while Jackson made his way back into the game. The resilient Owls, shorthanded with sophomore forward Seth Gearhart out due to injury, battled all night on the road but fell by a one-point margin 71-70 for their fourth straight loss.
Milestone Watch: Amid what has been a tumultuous senior season, Jackson continues to put his finishing touches on what has simply been one of the best careers in the history of the men's basketball program. Jackson became just the ninth player in program history to surpass the 1,500-point mark Saturday and currently stands eighth on the career scoring list after going for 16 at Marshall. Jackson also now ranks fourth all time in career assists and fifth in career steals after this week's games. With six regular season games left, Jackson has the opportunity to finish at least second all time in games played in a career, depending on how far the Owls can advance in the Conference USA tournament. Lastly, Jackson currently stands second all time in minutes played and is on pace to pass Dana Hardy ('89'92) for the career record, 3,397 minutes, if he stays healthy for the rest of the season.
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On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.