GAME NOTES: The Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners tip off a two-game homestand at the Convocation Center on Thursday night when they welcome the Rice Owls to town for a Conference USA clash.
Rice had been losers of eight straight games prior to its 71-69 triumph over Charlotte at home on Saturday evening, its first win since Dec. 19. It was the Owls' first victory in six C-USA contests and allowed them to improve to 6-13 overall.
After winning its first two C-USA games of the year at home earlier in the month, UTSA embarked on a three-game road swing and came away with losses in each matchup, most recently falling at Texas-El Paso, 81-62. The Roadrunners are now just 6-12 overall, but the good news is that most of their success has come on their home floor (5-5).
UTSA leads the all-time series with Rice, 4-2, most recently winning on Dec. 4, 2008, 78-75.
The Owls' first win in more than a month nearly didn't happen, as they saw their 12-point second-half lead dwindle to just one with under 20 seconds to play, but after hitting 1-of-2 at the foul line, Charlotte's jumper as time expired did not fall and they hung on. They shot a modest 43.1 percent from the field on the evening, but difference came from 3-point range, where they drained 12-of-24, with Seth Gearhart (16 points) and Austin Ramljak (13) each connecting on four long-range buckets. Max Guercy tallied 10 points and five assists, while Keith Washington also scored 10 in the winning effort.
Typically, Rice doesn't perform very well on either end of the floor, as it shoots just 40.8 percent from the field for 64.5 ppg while allowing 69.7 ppg on 43.5 percent shooting. It also lives in the red in terms of its rebounding (-3.7) and turnover (-1.9) margins. Ramljak (12.5 ppg) does the majority of his damage from beyond the arc, with 64 of his 73 field goals being 3- pointers. Sean Obi shoots just shy of 60 percent from the field and is a nightly double-double threat with 11.6 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Guercy adds 9.9 ppg but does so on a dreadful field goal percentage (.329).
The Roadrunners were no match for UTEP in their most recent bout. Even though they shot a respectable 45.7 percent from the field, they committed a game- high 16 turnovers and allowed the Miners to make 55.6 percent of their tries from the floor en route to the 19-point set back. Edrico McGregor, Jordan Sims and Keon Lewis all scored 11 points in the losing effort, with Lewis also handing out six assists, while James Williams and Jordan Sims both put up nine points.
Although UTSA boasts a respectable offense this season, shooting nearly 44 percent from the field for 70.2 ppg, it has failed to remain competitive on a consistent basis due to its porous defense, which yields 78.8 ppg on a lofty 48.1 percent shooting. It's dreadful -4.7 turnover margin doesn't help matters much either. Lewis leads the way with 14.1 ppg and has made 97-of-120 attempts from the foul line (.808). Devon Agusi (11.8 ppg), Sims (10.9 ppg) and Hyjii Thomas (10.9 ppg) also bring consistent scoring contributions to the table.
Rice's team morale got a boost after snapping its losing streak last weekend, and it'll have a good chance of keeping its luck going against the inconsistent Roadrunners, but UTSA has played admirably on its home floor and should find a way to pull this one out.
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