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Men's basketball extends winning streak to three

Photo by Courtesy Rice Athletics | The Rice Thresher

Senior forward Seth Gearhart drives to the basket during a victory over Middle Tennessee State University.

By Kevin Mohanram     2/18/15 4:07pm

Rice University men’s basketball needed two consecutive double-overtime wins to extend their winning streak to three games, their longest since December 2011.

Rice played two games this week against Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The Owls won both to move to 9-15 overall and 6-6 in conference play. The Owls have now won two more games this season than all of last year.

Although Rice held a nine-point lead going into the second half against MTSU, the game went to overtime tied 53-53. The Owls led by three near the end of the first overtime, but a free throw and putback layup from MTSU tied the game again at 66 apiece. Rice then held MTSU to two points in the final period of overtime to take a 71-68 victory. 

Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson had a game-high 24 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and also connected on three of his six three-point attempts. Junior guard Max Guercy also contributed 16 points and five steals. 

Despite the Owls’ difficulty maintaining leads, Rhoades said he was satisfied with the way the team remained focused and determined to win the game through both overtime periods.

“Our guys were smiling in the huddle after regulation and they were ready to move on,” Rhoades said. “We always talk about moving forward and making the next play. Today was a great example of that.”

Against UAB, senior forward Seth Gearhart tied the game with 26 seconds left at 59-59. The Owls trailed by as many as seven during the first period of overtime, but came back to take the lead with 13 seconds remaining. UAB then hit a free throw to tie the game again at 71. In the second overtime, Rice never looked back and outscored UAB 11-2 to win the game 82-73.

Gearhart, who scored a career-high 31 points last week, had 10 rebounds and another career-high 32 points against UAB. Gearhart shot eight for 11 from the field and went four-for-five from behind the three-point line. Guercy scored 21 points and contributed 10 assists for his first career double-double. 

Head Coach Mike Rhoades said while he was happy Rice pulled out the victory, the team needs to learn how to play

with the lead.

“We were playing pretty well and we had a lead, but we were playing not to lose,” Rhoades said. “You can’t play like that in college basketball. We haven’t had many leads like that, and late in the game we’ve got to get better.”

According to Rhoades, the UAB game was an intense matchup that demonstrated the tenacity of his team.

“Both teams played so darn hard; there was a lot of emotion out there,” Rhoades said. “I’m so proud of our guys and how we fought and kept fighting. I’m just really proud of the guys’ effort and their approach — that was a lot of fun.”

Gearhart was named Conference USA Player of the Week after averaging 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in an average of 41.5 minutes of action. Gearhart currently leads the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game, including a 40.6 three-point percentage.

The Owls embark on a two-game road trip against Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University before returning home to face Old Dominion University on Thursday, Feb. 26.

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