The Golden Eagles offense’s 42-point second half was not enough to beat the Rice Owls, who are ranked No. 25 in the nation in points per game, with a 61 – 58 loss.
Southern Miss started the game with a quick 3 – 0 lead, but Rice answered with a 17 – 0 run. Rice’s man-to-man defense kept Southern Miss in check for the entire first half. The offense looked leaderless without their senior point guard Khari Price, who missed the game due to a finger injury.
“The first half was just brutal offensively, [and] we never got into any kind of rhythm,” said Head Coach Doc Sadler. “We didn’t know [Khari wasn’t] going to play until today. So, it was too late for us to change much.”
The Golden Eagles offense seemed unsettled and jittery and looked to get the ball out of its hands as quickly as possible, causing 12 turnovers, three more than it had total in its previous game against North Texas. Rice’s defense scored 13 points off of Southern Miss’ turnovers and held the Golden Eagles to shoot 5-of- 23 from the court. Rice went into halftime with a 34 – 16 lead after Rice’s Egor Koulechov hit a half-court three-pointer as time expired.
The Golden Eagles came out in the second half with more calmness to their offense. The halftime adjustments helped them cut the Rice 24-point lead of 40 – 18 and close the game within 11 at 49 – 38.
The offense found some life with senior forward Quinton Campbell, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half. The biggest contributor to the change in the second half was the Golden Eagles’ bench. Sophomore forward Eddie Davis led the bench’s 23 points with 13 himself and D’Angelo Richardson’s point guard ability to take the role of Price and lead the offense.
“At first, we weren’t ready, but we found five guys who were ready to play in the second half,” said sophomore guard Cortez Edwards.
Rice began to feel the pressure as the Golden Eagles chipped away at the Owls’ lead. The Golden Eagles came within two points at 55 – 53 with 20 seconds left in the game, making the game clock the biggest problem for the team.
Rice and Southern Miss began a free-throw chess match with Southern Miss attempting the three- point play several times, trying to grab its offensive rebound after the first made free throw of two.
As the clock dwindled, the Golden Eagles had one last opportunity with less than two seconds left in the game as Campbell just missed the game tying half-court shot to end the game.
The Golden Eagles will go on the road to face Middle Tennessee State Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m.