SAN ANTONIO — Six players scored in double figures, led by a season-high 21 points from Jordan Sims, and UTSA gained an early lead and never looked back in an 89-76 victory against Rice on Thursday night at the Convocation Center.
Sims went 6-of-8 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc, and hit all four of his free throws for the Roadrunners (7-12, 3-3 C-USA), who snapped a three-game losing streak and won their fourth consecutive home game.
Phillip Jones registered a pair of season highs en route to his first double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Edrico McGregor notched his second double-dip of the campaign with 13 points and 10 boards. Meanwhile, Devon Agusi, Keon Lewis and Hyjii Thomas each added 11 points.
UTSA shot 60 percent in the first half and finished at 49.1 percent for the game. In addition, the Birds held a 37-28 advantage on the glass and turned 18 Rice turnovers into 20 points.
Keith Washington came off the bench to score 20 points to pace the Owls (6-14, 1-6 C-USA), who hit 10 3-pointers and scored 36 points in the paint. Sean Obi finished with a double-double at 19 points and 10 boards, while Austin Ramljak added 10 points.
Rice shot 48.3 percent on the night and totaled 16 assists on 28 baskets.
UTSA started fast with the first five points of the contest before the Owls countered with six straight for its only lead of the contest. McGregor put the home squad back up with a jumper that was followed by another bucket from Agusi, who also finished the contest with a season-best six assists.
The Owls pulled to within a point twice over the next three minutes, but the Roadrunners answered with a basket each time to maintain its advantage.
The hot-shooting home squad went on a 16-5 run midway through the period to push the lead to double-digits.
Agusi started the spurt with a jumper before Thomas picked up a steal and drove coast-to-coast for a layup. After getting fouled on the play, the senior converted the free throw and raced down the floor on the Roadrunners’ next possession for another inside basket.
The run was highlighted by a dunk from Jones and the redshirt freshman capped the spree with a three-point play. When the dust had settled, the Roadrunners led 28-16 after hitting 11 of their first 16 shots.
Washington scored five straight points to slice the deficit to single-digits, but a triple from Sims and a freebie by McGregor minutes later again gave the Birds a 10-point cushion. The lead remained at least 10 points over the final five minutes of the first half and UTSA took a 51-39 cushion to intermission.
The Roadrunners lead grew to 14, 57-43, with 16:27 to play on a trey from Sims. Obi and Washington helped cut the lead back to single-digits, but Lucas O’Brien stepped out and hit his second 3-pointer of the night for a 63-49 advantage.
Rice would not go away and connected on back-to-back triples to stay within arm’s reach.
But with the shot clock winding down, Lewis hit a contested 3-pointer with 11:16 to play to bring the season-high crowd of 1,347 to its feet.
The UTSA lead remained in double-digits until the Owls made one final push with about six minutes to play. Washington connected from behind the arc and Obi scored inside to trim the UTSA lead to 74-68, but that would be as close as the visitors would get.
Sims answered with his fifth 3-pointer of the night and the Roadrunners hit eight free throws in the final 3:01 to help secure the victory.
UTSA will hit the hardwood again at 3 p.m. on Saturday when it hosts Louisiana Tech (17-5, 5-2 C-USA)