On Wednesday, the men’s basketball team finished its season with an 86 – 75 loss to the Rice Owls in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament in Birmingham, Ala., ending their year with a 9 – 22 overall record, including 6 – 12 in C-USA.
In the first half, No. 12 seed Southern Miss started strong offensively, opening with a 10 – 2 run in the first three minutes of the game. The defense also held Rice scoreless for over four minutes at one point in the first half, while forcing 11 turnovers. The No. 5 Owls gained momentum before halftime to lead 37 – 35, shooting 50 percent from the floor.
The pace of the game picked up more in the second half, as both teams came out of the locker room fighting hard. Southern Miss guard Cortez Edwards came up with three steals that each led to points, as the lead continued to change hands with just over 10 minutes left to play.
After a stepback jumper by Edwards at the 7:12 mark in the second half, the game sat tied at 65. Rice’s Connor Cashaw and Marcus Evans then hit back-to-back threes, which initiated a 12 – 2 scoring run for the Owls and the final lead change of the game.
Rice took advantage of their trips to the foul line as Southern Miss held them to without any made shots from the field in the final six minutes. The Owls finished 29-of-32 at the line after starting the game 20-of-20.
The Golden Eagles continued to play scrappy to finish the game forcing 19 turnovers on the day, ten of which from steals. Southern Miss did struggle on the boards however, and Rice finished the game with a +17 rebound advantage at 41 – 24.
Shots did not come easily for the Eagles in the last five minutes. Quinton Campbell’s three at the 2:56 mark trimmed the lead to seven, which was as close as it got.
Leading all scorers was Marcus Evans of Rice who finished with 26 points, and shot 5-of–9 from deep. Quinton Campbell and Cortez Edwards led the way for the Golden Eagles with 23 and 21 points, respectively. The duo also played almost the entire game with 37 and 39 minutes each.
This is the third win for Rice over the Golden Eagles this season in three meetings.
Rice will play Texas-San Antonio tomorrow in the second round, while Southern Miss finishes their season with a 9 – 22 overall record, 6 – 12 in Conference USA.