Owls Basketball: Just One or Two Plays Away, Again

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John Royal
Ben Braun questions a call in the first half
Rice Owls head coach Ben Braun says that his team is close. One or two plays away close. One or two plays away from winning those close games and being a good basketball team.

But all that actually matters is that the Owls are still a few plays away because when you're talking about being one or two plays away, you're talking about losing.

The Owls shouldn't have had to worry about one or two plays last night. They led by as many as 13 points in the second half. They also led by seven points with about three minutes remaining in the game. And good teams, teams that know how to close out games, shouldn't lose basketball games they lead by 13 points in the second half or by seven points in overtime.

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John Royal
Connor Frizzelle hits a three pointer in the first half
But the Rice Owls aren't yet a team that knows how to close out a game. And last night, facing off against conference rival Southern Mississippi in a game the Owls could not afford to lose, they indeed found a way to lose. Blowing the 13-point lead in the second half, then blowing the seven-point lead in overtime to lose 81-78.

The Owls kept the pressure on throughout the first part of the second half, pushing the lead to as much as 13, but Southern Miss was just too good and pushed back too hard, ultimately retaking the lead with 2:46 remaining in the game. The Owls then needed another three from Frizzelle with 18 seconds left to send the game to overtime, and once the game hit overtime, it looked like the Owls were once again going to run away with it.

But the Owls hit the wall once they got that lead, and they were only able to score one point in the last 2:58 of play. That was the point the Owls defense needed to step up for that one extra stop, but couldn't, and it was that point that the Owls needed to make that one or two extra plays on offense to come away with the victory. Instead, Jackson turned the ball over with 35 seconds left and was called for charging with just a little over two seconds remaining.

"I feel like we should have won the game," Frizzelle said. "With all that said, we've got to close games out."

The Owls' (8-9) next chance to close things out comes in El Paso on Saturday night when they face UTEP. UTEP's another good team, especially playing in El Paso, so it will be another challenging night for the Owls. They're just a play or two away, according to Braun. But sometimes, that one or two plays can be the toughest of all plays to make.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: The Owls have started off conference play at 0-3....Southern Miss has now won five of the nine games the teams have played, and they have won four of the last five....The Owls next play in Tudor Fieldhouse on January 26 when they play host to the Houston Cougars....Connor Frizzelle ended the night as Rice's leading scorer with 21 points. Tamir Jackson finished with 19, Lucas Kuipers with 13 and Arsalan Kazemi with 10.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal