Rice-Texas Preview

Published Dec. 28, 2014 5:08 p.m. ET

Texas got some rest after its first loss this season and responded with easy victories in its next two games.

The 11th-ranked Longhorns have gotten another lengthy break after their most recent defeat and appear to have a prime chance to produce a decisive win again Monday against lowly Rice.

Texas (10-2) showed little rust from its seven days off following a 63-51 loss at No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 5, routing Texas State 59-27 on Dec. 13 before beating Lipscomb 106-61 on Dec. 16.

The Longhorns (10-2) have been idle since a 74-71 overtime loss to Stanford on Tuesday and are seeking a better performance in their non-conference finale.

"I thought those guys were tougher from start to finish," coach Rick Barnes said.

Before opening Big 12 play with a trip to Texas Tech on Saturday, Texas plays an Owls team that's beaten only one Division I opponent this season, defeating Prairie View A&M 68-64 on Nov. 19.

Rice (3-7) fell 79-72 in overtime at Lamar last Monday despite one of its best 3-point shooting performances of the season at 39.3 percent (11 of 28). It was the seventh game decided by seven points or fewer for the Owls, including two that have needed extra time.


"You can't beat yourself and win close games," coach Mike Rhoades said. "I love coaching close games and we've got to keep at it and keep getting better. Close isn't good enough and we've got to get over that and learn to win."

The Owls, who shot 43.1 percent overall, are among the worst shooting teams in Conference USA at 39.0 and are averaging 63.9 points.

Even with Tuesday's loss, Texas is among the nation's best defensive teams - allowing 55.1 points per game on 32.5 percent shooting, including 29.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Stanford was the first opponent to reach the 70-point mark on the Longhorns and shoot better than 39.0 percent (43.3). That loss also snapped a 15-game home win streak and a 55-game run against unranked non-conference visitors.

Texas beat Rice five times during the latter streak by an average of 15.2 points. The Longhorns have won nine in a row overall over their former Southwest Conference rivals and 16 of the past 17, including a 66-44 romp in the most recent matchup Dec. 30 in Austin.

Javan Felix will try to lead the way to another victory with another high-scoring effort. He set a season high for the second straight game Tuesday with 19, bettering the 17 he had in a 78-68 win over Long Beach State on Dec. 20.

The junior guard had averaged 8.2 points in his first nine games. He's scored a combined 10 on 2-of-11 shooting in his two matchups with Rice and had three points on 1-of-5 shooting in 20 minutes in last season's win.

Seth Gearhart, one of the Owls' two seniors, is averaging a team-best 14.1 points. Marcus Jackson is the only other player in double figures at 12.0 per game and had 19 in the loss at Lamar.

Max Guercy had a season-high 19 points versus Lamar and freshman Bishop Mency tallied a season-best 17. Mency is averaging 14.0 points in his last three contests after scoring 4.3 per game in the previous four.