North Texas (14-9, 8-2 Conference-USA) snapped its eight-game winning streak after an 84-75 road loss to Rice (10-13, 2-8 C-USA). It was the first loss for the Mean Green in a month.
Rice sophomore guard Drew Peterson knocked down a pair of early 3-pointers to give his team a 6-4 lead over the Mean Green. Rice would keep the lead throughout the first half.
Later in the half, sophomore guard Trey Murphy III hit a 3-pointer that gave Rice a 35-26 lead. Peterson and Murphy both contributed eight points in the first half for the Owls.
North Texas responded with a 7-0 run that trimmed the deficit 35-33 after a 3-pointer by redshirt senior guard DJ Draper. But, Rice would counter this by ending the half on a 9-0 run. It was the first time the Mean Green trailed at halftime since Jan. 4 at Marshall — the first win of the eight-game winning streak.
Draper knocked down two 3-pointers in the first half and would finish the game going 6-of-7 from 3-point range, scoring a season-high 18 points.
Turnovers cost North Texas dearly as they would commit 11 in the first half alone. It didn’t help that Rice went into the half shooting 9-of-16 from 3-point range.
“Give Rice all the credit,” head coach Grant McCasland said. “They took it to us. They were the more aggressive team from the jump. They were attacking from the beginning. They have a good scoring team.
After both teams exchanged buckets to open up the second half, North Texas found itself hot from beyond the 3-point line as they would convert six 3-pointers on its next seven possessions.
A 3-pointer by Draper tied the game and was followed by another 3-pointer on the ensuing possession by junior guard James Reese that gave the team a 54-51 lead with 13:53 remaining in the game. It was the first lead for North Texas since the opening minutes of the first half.
Reese had 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
The Mean Green continued to get points from outside and had its largest lead of the game after a 3-pointer by redshirt sophomore guard Umoja Gibson gave the team a 65-58 lead with 8:55 remaining in the game.
Gibson rebounded from an 0-9 shooting performance against UTEP and scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including knocking down four 3-pointers.
Despite this, the lead didn’t last long as Rice went on a 6-0 scoring run and then tied the game at 65 after a 3-pointer by senior guard Ako Adams with 7:13 remaining.
After the Mean Green grabbed a 69-67 lead, Rice was able to knock down another 3-point attempt, this time from senior forward Robert Martin to give the team its final lead of the game.
Peterson and Martin were able to knock down another pair of 3-pointers to extend the lead 76-69. North Texas answered back with points of their own but weren’t able to stop the Owls late defensively, thus allowing the game to slip away.
For Rice, they finished the game hitting 15-of-28 3-point attempts and snapped a five-game losing streak.
“In the second half, we just couldn’t get stops when we needed to,” McCasland said. “That’s kind of been our calling card late … getting stops when it mattered, but we couldn’t do that today.”
The loss also snaps McCasland’s six-game winning streak against in-state schools.
Next Up: North Texas will stay on the road as they travel to take on Middle Tennessee Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Featured Image: Forward Deng Geu drives past UTEP defender and finishes at the rim on Jan. 25, 2020. Image by Zachary Thomas