Austin, Texas Sheldon McClellan is Texas' second-leading scorer this season, but it took an injury to Julien Lewis to get the freshman from Houston the first start of his collegiate career.
While Lewis sat with his left hand wrapped in a bandage, McClellan scored 19 points and J'Covan Brown led the Longhorns with 23 as Texas downed Rice 73-59 on Saturday.
"I saw the culprits in the hallway, Brown and McClellan," Rice coach Ben Braun said after the game. "I thought they both stepped up and made big shots for their team as well as getting the ball to certain guys off penetration."
McClellan was 5 of 10 from the floor and missed only one of his nine free throws as the Longhorns (10-3) won in their first game since losing at No. 5 North Carolina on Dec. 21.
"The first day after the Carolina game, that practice was brutal," said McClellan, who has 35 points on 11 of 22 shooting over the last two contests. "So I think we've matured and are getting better as a team."
Lewis did not play after starting 12 straight games for Texas. The freshman guard injured his left hand on Thursday when it got caught in a car door.
"I thought Sheldon did really well," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "He wants to be a good basketball player and he certainly has some talent."
Rice missed five layups and shot 29 percent in the first half but only trailed 35-27 at intermission. The Owls (9-5) got within one point in the second half before Texas used a late run to seal the win.
Tamir Jackson had 19 points but Rice missed the chance to beat a second Big 12 team in two weeks after winning at Texas A&M on Dec. 22.
Texas led by as many as nine points early, then Rice battled back and got within 28-26 after a free throw by Julian DeBose with 6:59 remaining before halftime. Texas outscored the Owls 7-1 to finish the first 20 minutes still in the lead.
"We didn't convert today, which we normally do," Braun said. "Obviously we didn't convert on inside shots."
After the break, Rice closed the gap to 44-43 when Connor Frizzelle hit a 3-pointer. Frizzelle made all three of his 3-pointers during a 5:07 span when Rice nearly pulled even.
The Owls converted just one field goal over the next 8 minutes, though, and Texas went on a 17-5 run that included 10 made free throws. McClellan put his team ahead by double digits when his layup with 6:12 to play made it 59-48.
Texas won the battle of the boards 37-27 in its final nonconference game. The Longhorns visit Big 12 rival Iowa State on Wednesday.