Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Seth Gearhart led the way with 16 points as the Rice Owls nipped the Charlotte 49ers, 71-69, in a Conference USA bout at Tudor Fieldhouse.
For the Owls (6-13, 1-5 C-USA), Austin Ramljak added 13 points and Max Guercy and Keith Washington each chipped in with 10.
Shawn Lester led the 49ers (12-7, 3-3) with 18 points, Willie Clayton finished with a double-double by scoring 13 and pulling down 11 rebounds and Pierria Henry scored 10, handed out six assists and made four steals in the setback.
Rice took a 36-31 lead at halftime after shooting 46.4 percent from the field and connecting on 6-of-11 from 3-point range. Charlotte shot well in the period as well, making 50 percent of its field goal tries but just 2-of-7 from beyond the arc.
In the second half the Owls struggled from the floor, hitting on just 39.1 percent but stayed strong from deep, making 6-of-13 from 3-point distance. The 49ers shot 45.8 percent in the half but again were not effective from the arc, shooting 2-of-9 from the outside. After trailing by 11 with under seven minutes to play, Charlotte used a late run to give Rice a battle to the final horn.
A 3-pointer by Lester with 18 seconds remaining cut the Owls lead to just one. After Guercy made one of two free throws to push the advantage back to two, Ben Cherry had a chance to send it to overtime, but his jumper at the buzzer was off the mark, giving the Owls their first conference victory of the season.
The Owls did their damage from long-range, outscoring the 49ers 36-12 from 3- point range. Charlotte had the advantage underneath, finishing the contest with a 30-20 edge in points in the paint and a 35-26 advantage on the glass.