AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In the week of practice leading up to Texas' showdown against Rice on Saturday, head coach Rick Barnes stressed to Sheldon McClellan the importance of rebounding in staying in the flow of the game.
The advice appeared to pay off as the sophomore swingman grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to go along with 14 points as the Longhorns defeated Rice 57-41 in their final non-conference tuneup before starting Big 12 competition.
"The coaches wanted me to be aggressive on both ends," McClellan said. "Not just scoring, but also rebounding. I thought I did a better job focusing on that side of the ball today."
Julien Lewis added 12 points, and Jonathon Holmes had eight boards as Texas (8-5) improved to 7-0 against the Owls under Barnes.
Austin Ramljak scored 14 points for Rice (3-9), which plays at Harvard on Jan. 5 and begins Conference USA competition Jan. 9 against Southern Mississippi. Tamir Jackson had 12 points, and Keith Washington had six rebounds.
The Owls established an early 19-13 advantage, but Texas came back to tie the score at 22 about four minutes before halftime. The Longhorns briefly moved ahead, but Ramljak hit a jumper to send the teams into the break tied at 26.
In the second half, Texas used a late 12-1 run to pull away, capped by a 3-pointer from McClellan with 2:10 to play that made it 53-39.
The Longhorns play Baylor on Jan. 5.
Texas came into the game with the nation's best 3-pointer percentage defense, but Rice made five of its 13 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Owls missed their first five shots from the field and Texas led 4-1. Then Ramljak started the long-range barrage with a 3-pointer with 14:43 remaining in the period to start a 13-5 run that included three treys.
Texas reeled in the Owls by making five of its next 10 attempts from the floor and Cameron Ridley's dunk made it 22-22 at the 4:11 mark.
The lead changed three times in the first 10 minutes of the second half until McClellan dunked to give Texas the lead for good at 34-33.
"We knew what we were doing wrong and what we had to do to take the lead and finish the game," Texas guard Javan Felix said.
Rice hung on and got back within two points when it cut its deficit to 38-36 on a 3-pointer from Julian DeBose.
"I thought we battled pretty hard," Rice head coach Ben Braun said. "We missed some opportunities."
Jaylen Bond made his first appearance for Texas since leaving a game Nov. 19 with a left foot injury. He scored three points and grabbed six rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
Texas won its 350th game under Barnes, who is now 350-142 at UT since coming from Providence prior to the 1999 season.