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Men's basketball snags first conference win against Charlotte

By Dan Elledge     1/27/14 6:00pm

The Rice University men's basketball team won their first Conference USA basketball game of the season on Saturday, Jan. 25, beating the University of North Carolina, Charlotte 71-69. This victory ended an eight-game losing streak that began after the Owls lost to the University of Houston on Dec. 21. Earlier in the week, Rice lost to Marshall University 73-63. With their 1-1 record over the weekend, Rice is now 6-13 overall and 1-5 in C-USA play.

Junior forward Seth Gearhart said Rice came up with an effective strategy to use against Charlotte. Gearhart said the team will begin to win more games if they continue to execute.

"Basically, we just need to keep playing with the same level we did against Charlotte," Gearhart said. "We came out strong. We played really good defense, and we attacked offensively, which is something that we have struggled with all year. We have not been scoring as much as we need to win games. If we keep both of those things up, we will continue winning."

Gearhart said he has been impressed with the improvement the freshmen have shown during the season. He said he expects them to provide important contributions for the rest of the season.

"Everyone brings something different," Gearhart said. "[Freshman forward] Sean Obi has been playing well. He has been getting the double-doubles: scoring a lot of points and getting the rebounds. What [people] do not see is all of the other freshmen, who, since they have come in the summer, have gotten so much better. They are ready to play and contribute."

After their win on Saturday, the Owls will go back on the road to face the University of Texas, San Antonio and the University of Texas, El Paso. UTSA is new to C-USA this season, with a 6-12 overall record and 2-3 conference record, and UTEP is 14-6 this year, with a 4-1 C-USA record.

Sophomore guard Keith Washington said UTSA and UTEP deserve to be above Rice in the C-USA standings, but that the Owls will not back down. He said they will try to push the tempo and keep up with the Roadrunners and the Miners.

"I believe they are both better than us, but we will come in ready," Washington said. "It won't be easy, but we will come in fighting. I think we can take [both of] them."

Going back on the road, Washington said he is not going to be scared of the loud crowds. He said the Owls' experiences with adversity this season have prepared them for playing on the road. After the win against Charlotte, Washington said he is excited for the future of this team.

"We know going into these games [that] we are always going to be the underdog, no matter who we play this year," Washington said. "We are used to going to a hostile environment, and we know that we have to fight for each other. Our mindset heading onto the road is to do whatever it takes to win. I'm looking forward to what the future holds for Rice basketball."

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