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Men's basketball splits games in South Florida

By Kevin Mohanram     2/25/15 10:05am

After splitting a pair of road games in South Florida this weekend against Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University, the men’s basketball team are in second place in the West Division of Conference USA. After starting the season 6-15, the Owls have won four of their last five, improving their record to 10-6 overall and 7-7 in conference play.

Despite getting outscored on the bench 0-14, FIU ended Rice’s three-game winning streak by defeating the Owls 60-56. The Owls, however, rebounded to defeat Florida Atlantic 76-69 to give the team its 10th win of the year. 

Against FIU, the Owls found themselves down 10 late in the game, but came back to lead by four points with two minutes remaining. FIU, however, was able to come back and secure the victory with two late three-pointers.

Head Coach Mike Rhoades said inconsistency on defense and unnecessary fouls ultimately led to the team’s loss.

“We weren’t consistent on defense today and we didn’t get stops,” Rhoades said. “You’ve got to go earn a victory, and we didn’t do that today. We can’t have our guys that play a lot of minutes picking up silly fouls. Our bench is getting better, and we’ve seen that over the last couple weeks.”

Senior forward Seth Gearhart, who was named Conference USA’s Player of the Week, had his second straight double-double against FIU with 13 points and 11 rebounds, matching his career-high in rebounds. Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson contributed 10 points and junior guard Max Guercy had five assists against FIU.

Going into halftime against FAU, the Owls held a 39-32 advantage, a lead they maintained for the remainder of the game. Guercy scored a career-high 25 points on 69 percent shooting from the field, adding six assists. Gearhart scored 24 points and also shot 4-6 from behind the three-point line.

Rhoades said he was proud of the way the team, especially Guercy, performed against FAU. Rhoades said he was especially excited after the win brought Rice to .500 in conference play. 

“I’m really excited we found a way to gut it out,” Rhoades said. “I was really proud of our guys the way we handled the last few minutes. On the road, sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, and tonight was ugly, but we’ll take it. I know [Guercy] had a couple turnovers late, but he played a great game. He really brought us some energy, and it went a long way.”

The Owls have two home games this week on Thursday, Feb. 26 against Old Dominion University, and on Saturday, Feb. 28 against the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The tipoffs for both games are scheduled for 7 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.

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