Wednesday night, the Rice Owls came into the Don Haskins looking to pick up their second win in C-USA play, while the Miners looked to make it seven in a row at home, including 4-0 in conference action.
The Miners came out strong in the early going, quickly building a 13 point advantage at 23-10 just past the midway point of the first half. The Owls got the score back to eight on multiple occasions, but the Miners continued their solid play, and took a 14 point lead into the intermission.
The Owls were able to cut into the lead a bit in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Miners responded with an 7-1 spurt to push their advantage up to 17. Rice continued to fight, and got the game back to an eight point difference at 48-40 with 7:19 remaining, but that was as close as they would get.
Over the next four minutes, the Miners outscored the Owls 12-4 to get the lead back to 16, and virtually shut the door on any comeback attempt. Rice continued to keep the game respectable, but in the end the Miners walked away with the 65-53 victory.
The Miners were led by C.J. Cooper who finished with a game high 14 points in only 16 minutes of action. John Bohannon finished with 11 points, and 3 rebounds in only 11 minutes of action, and Julian Washburn finished with 10 points and 4 assists.
For the game, the Miners shot 51.1% from the field, including 52.6% from three point range, and also shot 63.6% from the line. The Owls were held to 41.2% from the field, and 35.3% from three point land, while shooting 62.5% from the line.
Despite being at a huge disadvantage as far as size was concerned, the Owls were able to outrebound the Miners 30-27, including 10-6 on the offensive end. Both teams turned the ball over 9 times, but one glaring statistic was the Miners 6 blocks to Rice's 0.
Here's what Coach Floyd had to say following the game:
"We did not get an offensive board for a basket in the second half, which is really discouraging against a smaller team...We didn't outrebound them, which is discouraging...I thought McKenzie Moore played really well. He played really unselfish. Cedrick Lang played well. C.J. won two games for us last year, Southern Miss at home and a game out in Hawaii...this guy can make shots...We knew that at some point he would help us win a game this year, and he did tonight...I think we'll watch a lot of film tonight and tomorrow on [Tulsa] and see what's worked against them for other people...They play a real spirited man-to-man defense, and we're going to have to play a lot better than we did at their place...We recognize that we'll have opportunities against Southern Miss and Memphis. There are still a lot of games to be played..We know that we let one kind of get away from us at UAB, but at the same time maybe we stole one at East Carolina that we had no business winning...We're not a dominant team by any means. We have to get better every night out. But I like our team. And I really like us in the years to come with what's happening right now and what's coming in here in the future. As long as we get an opportunity this year, we're going to try to steal every game we can, and look up and see where this thing is at the end."
The win improves the Miners to 13-8 on the season, and 6-2 in conference play. Memphis still leads the league, and improved to 8-0 in conference play after knocking off SMU tonight, but this conference is still yet to be decided.
UCF also improved to 6-2 in league play after handing Southern Miss their first loss in conference, leaving 4 teams with a reasonable shot at claiming the regular season crown. And with home games still to come against both Memphis and UCF, the Miners have as good a shot as anyone.
Again though, they'll need to continue to play well, and will need to learn how to play well on the road as well. That's where this conference will be decided.
Up next, the Miners will round out their three game home stand with a matchup against Tulsa on Saturday. That one will be crucial as they'll then hit the road in three of their next four. It's coming down to it; should be an interesting finish to the C-USA season.