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Men’s basketball seeks revenge against North Texas

Courtesy Rice Athletics

By Ben Baker-Katz     1/28/20 9:57pm

After a tough weekend that saw the team lose against two Conference USA opponents, Rice men’s basketball will aim to even its season series against the University of North Texas on Saturday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse. According to head coach Scott Pera, UNT — which is ranked No. 1 in C-USA — will pose a difficult challenge for the Owls.

“It’s a very balanced league, and we’re knocking on the door,” Pera said. “We have to focus on our attention to detail to come out on top in these remaining games. [North Texas] is one of the best teams in the league.”

The Owls suffered two close losses this past weekend. The first, against the University of Texas, El Paso, came down to the final minute when redshirt junior guard Josh Parrish converted a layup, trimming the Miner lead to just four. But UTEP held on for the win, holding the Owls without a field goal for the remainder of the game.

Senior guard Ako Adams scored 17 points for the Owls and became the 37th player in Rice history to score 1,000 career points. But the Owls shot just 36 percent from the field, and 29 percent from three. According to Adams, the Owls were not totally comfortable shooting jump shots.

“It’s just confidence,” Adams said. “Players, including myself, will miss a couple of shots and lose confidence; it’s hard to win like that. We just have to stay confident, no matter how many shots you miss or what’s going on the offense or defensive end.” 

In their next game, the Owls lost a close game to the University of Texas, San Antonio. With just six seconds left and the game tied, Adams missed a jump shot that UTSA guard Erik Czumbel grabbed off the rim, drove the length of the court and sank the final layup with just one second remaining. Pera said the team was not in top form defensively against UTSA.

“We played really well defensively [against UTEP], maybe the effort we put in there wore us down a little bit,” Pera said. “I think confidence plays a role in it too. But we have really good shooters, and we have to stay confident and positive, and we can get going a little bit as we did against UTSA.”

With that loss, Rice fell to 9-13 on the year and 1-8 in C-USA. But Parrish said the Owls know what to expect in their upcoming game against UNT after losing their last contest against the Mean Green.

“Our last game against North Texas taught us that they’re a good team, but just like any team in our league, they’re very beatable,” Parrish said. “We had some mistakes that put us at a deficit early. For this next game, we’re going to try to compete from the tip with that same focus and intensity, and just try to keep the game close.”

According to Adams, the Owls know what they must do to be successful against UNT.

“[North Texas] is going to defend, play hard, play scrappy and rebound,” Adams said. “We have to pay more attention to details like boxing out, being in gaps and knowing personnel. If we get those things down, I think we have a great chance to win.”

Pera said he and the team aren’t treating the rest of the season any differently just because of Rice’s C-USA record.

“We’re just worried about the team in front of us,” Pera said. “No one is hanging their head, no one is discouraged. We’re frustrated, but we’re fighting hard, and we can’t wait to play again.”

The Owls get back on the court this Saturday against UNT with a 2 p.m. tipoff inside Tudor Fieldhouse. 

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