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Rice can’t catch Florida Atlantic in 73-68 loss

Rice freshman Sean Obi backs down a defender against Florida International on Thursday. Obi posted a double-double in Saturday’s 73-68 loss to Florida Atlantic.
Jeremy Shapiro

Three Sentence Summary: For the second time in three days, Rice had a great opportunity to beat a school from South Florida. The Owls closed a 10-point deficit to one in the game’s waning moments on Saturday. However, Florida Atlantic hit 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch to clinch the 73-68 win.

Team Records: Florida Atlantic improved to 5-11, 1-1 in Conference USA. Rice dropped to 5-10, 0-2 in C-USA. It’s the fifth straight loss for Rice.

The Significance: Florida Atlantic had struggled this season, and they were playing at Tudor Fieldhouse two days after a 20-point loss at Louisiana Tech. The team hadn’t won on the road in almost a year. If Rice wants to escape the basement this season, this was a game they probably needed. They led by 15 in the first half, but didn’t keep it up. A disappointing way to start conference play.

Defining Moments: Rice had two possessions where they could have taken the lead late in the game. Down 67-66, Sean Obi missed a jumper with 57 seconds left. Marquan Botley made one of two free throws for Florida Atlantic four seconds later. Austin Ramljak got a look for a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left, but the shot missed.

What Went Right:

1. Rice had a season-high 6 blocked shots.

2. The Owls from Houston made 13 of 15 free throw attempts.

3. Rice held the Owls from Boca Raton to 31 percent shooting in the first half.

What Went Wrong:

1. Two days after committing a season-low 6 turnovers, Rice had 16 turnovers Saturday.

2. FAU shot 50 percent in the second half, including 5 of 12 from beyond the arc.

3. Marquan Botley scored a career high 19 points.

Big Man on Campus: Sean Obi scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. Most of his points came late. He scored 12 of Rice’s last 16 points.

What Did the Coach Say: “We started out with a really good push to start the game,” said Rice coach Ben Braun. “That’s one of the better starts we’ve had. To get 18 assists is a great number for us. To shoot 87 percent also is a good number. We just have to do a better job in the second half. The same team we held to 25, we let go for 48 in the second half. We didn’t get out on shooters and some of our turnovers led to points for them.”

Read More About It: Florida Atlantic takes down Rice 73-68

The Series Stands at: Florida Atlantic 1, Rice 0

Next Rice Game: The Owls play at 7 p.m. Thursday at Southern Mississippi

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