Max Fielder (19 points, 13 rebounds) recorded a double-double and Travis Evee scored a game-high 21 points with six assists to lead Rice (9-3, 2-2 Conference USA) past UTEP (6-4, 2-2 C-USA), 71-68, on Saturday night in the Haskins Center.
Jamal Bieniemy led the Miners with 16 points and three assists, while Bryson Williams (13 points) and Souley Boum (12 points) hit double figures.
The Owls shot 47.1 percent (8-17) three pointers and outrebounded UTEP, 38-32. Rice outscored UTEP, 36-22, in the paint, and 12-8 on second chance points.
After shooting a season-high 54.3 percent the night before, the Miners shot just over 39 percent on Saturday night. After only seven turnovers the previous two games, the Miners turned the ball over 11 times.
“We got great looks but I thought there was a time or two we were pressing a little bit for whatever reason and we were trying the play too fast,” third-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “But at the end of the day we didn’t make some shots we made yesterday and we had some great looks tonight.”
The Miners played catchup most of the second half, as the Owls built an 11-point lead (62-51) at the 7:36 mark.
But UTEP wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Bieniemy hit a pair of threes, as his second trey got the Miners within five points (64-59) at the 4:21 mark. After exchanging buckets, Williams scored on a strong driving layup that made the count 66-63 with 1:29 remaining in the ball game.
With the score 68-64, Bieniemy came up with another big basket on a jump shot that got the Miners within two points with 27 seconds left. However, Quincy Olivari went 3-for-4 from the foul line in the final seconds, building the lead to 71-68. Olivari missed the second of two, Tydus Verhoeven grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to Boum who couldn’t get a three-pointer off and was fouled with five seconds left.
Boum missed the free throw, Williams grabbed the offensive rebound, but a foul was called on UTEP, thus ending the game.
Verhoeven added seven points and seven boards, while Keonte Kennedy grabbed seven rebounds. Efe Odigie added six points off the bench and Christian Agnew scored five in 17 minutes off the bench.
Up next, UTEP will travel to Denton to take on North Texas on Jan. 15 and 16. The Miners and Mean Green are set to tipoff at 6 p.m. MT on Friday, and 2 p.m. MT on Saturday. Both contests will be on Stadium, and can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners app with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher calling the action.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post