Koulechov's free throw lifts Rice over New Mexico 90-89
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) If there's one thing Rice coach Mike Rhoades has learned it is that anything can happen on the basketball court.
That was certainly the case Saturday night when New Mexico's Tim Williams called a timeout with 0.1 seconds left on the clock when the Lobos had none remaining in a tie game.
Egor Koulechov hit the technical free throw to give the Owls an improbable 90-89 victory after they trailed by 16 in the second half.
''If you're around long enough, you experience it all,'' Rhoades said with a grin spread across his face. ''In the heat of the moment, in the heat of the game, a guy makes a big rebound and trying to help his team, he calls a timeout when he doesn't have it. It happens. That's why it's a kids' game. It's unfortunate.
Koulechov finished with a career-high 32, including 24 in the second half, and Marcus Evans scored 21 despite sitting a large chunk of the second half with four fouls.
The Owls (5-6) trailed 66-49 with 12:59 left, then started nibbling at the lead.
''I thought we were grinding, gritty in that 25-9 run there,'' Rhoades said. ''We just kept picking away, battled it and got momentum.''
New Mexico (7-3) got 21 points from Elijah Brown, with Williams adding 18, including 14 in the second half. The Lobos held a 77-61 lead with 7:10 left before Rice really kicked it in gear.
Rice used a quick 14-3 run covering 1:34 to pull within 80-75, then got within 86-84 after a steal and dunk from Evans with 1:11 left. Koulechov hit a 3-pointer with 22.4 seconds left to tie it and Brown threw it away on a miscommunication while bringing the ensuing possession up court.
''We had some great resolve the last six, seven minutes of the game,'' Rhoades said. ''We got back into it and hung in there.''
Deep shooting early helped push the Owls to a 26-15 lead and during that stretch, all five of New Mexico's starters hit the bench after committing six quick turnovers.
But the Lobos gained control of the game over the final five minutes of the first half with a 19-5 run to take a 44-38 lead into the break. Seven of those points came from the foul line, and 3-pointers from Elijah Brown and Sam Logwood finished it off.
Turnovers were a big key to the comeback, Rhoades said, as the Owls outscored New Mexico 23-8 on fast-break points off of 18 turnovers.
''We got some steals even though we were in foul trouble, that was huge for us,'' he said.
TIP INS: Rice is a traveling band, opening a stretch Saturday of five road games in six outings. New Mexico's string of holding opponents to under 30-percent shooting on 3-pointers came to an end at five. The Owls shot 11 for 27 (40.7 percent) from 3-point range.
UP NEXT: New Mexico travels to Hawai'i to meet Auburn in the opener of the Diamond Head Classic. Rice goes to South Alabama on Tuesday.