By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Mekhi Mason scored 17 of his season-high 30 points in the second half and Anthony Selden knocked down two free throws in the last minute Saturday, lifting the Rice Owls to an 80-76 victory over the UTSA Roadrunners.
Jordan Ivy-Curry led the Roadrunners with 19 points.
UTSA lost its second straight game and fell to 1-6 in its last seven despite a spirited comeback in the final five minutes that fell short.
With 5:02 remaining, Rice took a commanding 73-58 lead as Mason pulled up to knock down a jumper.
From there, the Roadrunners rallied with an 18-5 run over the next four and a half minutes to pull within two.
Guard Adante’ Holiman, playing his first game after missing most of January with a sprained ankle, swished a three-pointer off the wing to make it a 78-76 game with 33 seconds left.
After the timeout, UTSA pressured the ball, trapping just as Rice brought it past halfcourt. The ball was swung around to Selden, and UTSA fouled him with 21 seconds left.
Selden, a 73 percent free-throw shooter who was one for two at the line at that point, made both free throws to give the Owls a four-point lead.
On the other end, the Roadrunners came up empty with four straight misses before the buzzer sounded.
The difference in the game was Mason, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Gilbert, Ariz. Mason entered the arena averaging 14 points for the season on 41 percent shooting, including 32 of 97 from the three-point arc. He torched the Roadrunners by hitting 11 of 19 from the field. Mason made three of seven from distance.
Point guard Travis Evee also hurt the Roadrunners, scoring 18 points and sinking four of eight from the arc. In all, the Owls made 12 of 29 from distance, getting the best of the 3-point shooting Roadrunners, who managed only seven of 25 on the afternoon.
In the teams’ last meeting, played in Houston on Jan. 6, the Roadrunners won it 89-82 in overtime and slowed down the Owls with a 2-3 zone.
They tried to mix it up a little in the rematch, throwing out a 1-3-1, but Evee, Mason, Alem Huseinovich and Noah Shelby took turns shooting over it with success.
“I thought the 1-3-1 matched up,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s broadcast, on KTKR AM-760. “At times it had the effect that we needed it to have. Guys embraced that this week. I thought they did a good job with that. But, long way to go. We got to play harder. Got to play harder. There (are) loose balls we’re not getting. Rebounds we’re not getting. We got to play harder.”
Rice 9-13, 3-6
UTSA 8-14, 2-7
UTSA at Wichita State, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
The Owls nearly completely turned the tables on the two Roadrunners who hurt them the most last month. Center Carlton Linguard Jr. scored 24 points and Dre Fuller Jr. had 23 in the first meeting. In the rematch, Linguard scored six and Fuller was shut out. Both were 0 for 3 from long distance in the first half, when the Roadrunners went 3 for 17 as a team.
Linguard battled hard to the end, making some plays down the stretch and finishing with 10 rebounds.
Leading the Roadrunners were Jordan Ivy-Curry, Christian Tucker, Adante’ Holiman and Trey Edmonds. Ivy-Curry, the team’s leading scorer, hit for 19 points on 6 for 16 shooting in 27 minutes. Tucker produced 14 points, eight assists and four steals.
Holiman, a UTSA sophomore from McAlester, Okla., scored 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench. He injured his ankle on Jan. 2 late in a home game against the UAB Blazers. The 6-foot transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley sat out the next seven games in rehabilitation before starting to work out full speed earlier this week.
“I thought he was really good considering how much time he’s missed,” Henson said. “He got three practices in this week, (on) Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. He stepped right in like hasn’t missed a beat.”
Edmonds, one of UTSA’s big men, scored 10 points on four of five shooting. Massal Diouf, a power forward off the bench, contributed six points and seven rebounds.