No. 2 Texas rekindles old rivalry, meets Rice

No. 2 Texas is back on track and expects to be firing on all cylinders when it hosts Rice on Monday in Austin, Texas.

The Longhorns (7-1) rebounded from their only loss of the season with an emphatic 88-43 win at home over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday. Christian Bishop had 16 points and nine rebounds, both season highs, and Brock Cunningham added a career-best 13 points in the win, which was capped by a 27-2 run over the final 12 minutes.

The Longhorns led by 16 points at halftime and continued to expand their advantage through the finish while shooting 59.7 percent from the floor, amassing a season-high 23 assists and forcing 22 turnovers in a commanding bounce-back performance.

Dillon Mitchell added 13 points for Texas, as 10 of the 12 players that saw the court had at least four points. The Longhorns earned a 52-18 edge in points in the paint and 49-8 advantage in bench scoring while holding Arkansas-Pine Bluff to just 19.2 percent shooting in the second half.

“You got to have balance,” Texas head coach Chris Beard said. “So that was a big emphasis this week in practice. And we had that today. Brock and (Bishop) played terrific.”

Texas’ defense has been stout, as it ranks 24th in points allowed per game (59.4).

“We’re a defensive program,” Beard said. “It’s our identity. It’s what we try to do. Because we want to win. Anybody that wins (a national title) is a defensive program.”

Six of Texas’ seven wins this season have been by at least 15 points.

Rice (6-2) heads to Austin after an 83-71 win on the road over Texas State on Dec. 4, the Owls’ fifth straight victory. However, both of Rice’s losses have come on the road.

Quincy Olivari scored a season-high 30 points in the win as Rice never trailed, making seven of its first 10 shots. It was Olivari’s second career 30-point game.

Max Fiedler added 12 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and 18th of his career. Cameron Sheffield chipped in a season-high 13 points and added six rebounds and two steals. Mekhi Mason also had 13 points in the win as Rice shot 53.8 percent from the field and a season-best 57.1 percent from beyond the arc.

“It was definitely our most complete game for 40 minutes, home or on the road,” Rice head coach Scott Pera said. “That’s what you have to do to a good team on their home floor. I thought our guys were really good in their preparation leading up to the game, they were tremendous in their walk-through … and then they executed, which is what it really comes down to.”

The former Southwest Conference rivals will meet for the 198th time, with the Longhorns holding a 138-59 all-time advantage. The teams haven’t played since 2015, and Rice has lost 10 straight in the series.

–Field Level Media