HOUSTON – Ariona Gill (19 points), Katia Gallegos (15 points) and Katarina Zec (11 points) hit double figures in scoring but homestanding Rice used a barrage of 3-pointers to topple UTEP, 82-59, at Tudor Fieldhouse Thursday evening.
“A few things didn’t go our way (in third quarter) and the bottom fell out,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “Rice doesn’t shoot the 3-pointer that well, but they did tonight. When you’re daring kids to make 3-pointers and then they do, they deserve to win.”
The Miners (15-13, 8-9 C-USA) used a 7-0 run to pull even at 48 midway through the third quarter before the Owls (20-8, 15-2 C-USA) wrapped a 15-1 run around the quarter break to pull away for good.
Zec pulled down a team-high and career-best tying nine rebounds to flirt with a double-double while Gallegos dished out a squad-best three assists. Gallegos now has 142 assists on the season, which ties Shalana Taylor (2004-05) for the UTEP freshman single-season record.
UTEP connected on 42.0 percent (21-50) from the floor and forced 21 turnovers that led to 24 points, but Rice overcame that through sharp shooting and a big night on the glass. The Owls nailed 51.8 percent (29-56) from the floor, including making a season-best 12 triples on 23 attempts (52.2 percent).
Rice also had a 39-23 advantage on the boards, which led to a 18-2 differential on second-chance points.
The Owls were led by Erica Ogwumike with game highs in points (24) and rebounds (16). Sydne Wiggins (18 points) and Lauren Schwart (14 points) also hit double figures for scoring for Rice, who dished out 22 assists on 29 field goals made.
Rice ripped off seven straight points to prompt a UTEP timeout 90 seconds into the contest. UTEP responded with a 7-2 push to cut the margin to two (9-7) with 6:02 to play in the opening quarter. After Rice extended the lead back to seven (14-7), the Miners went on a 9-2 surge to pull even at 16 with 3:15 to play in the frame.
The Owls had an answer, closing the quarter on an 11-1 run to put UTEP down by 10 (27-17) through 10 minutes of action.
Gill put the squad on her back with her own 7-0 run to start the second quarter on a high note for the Orange and Blue, which brought them all the way to within three (27-24). Rice eventually worked its advantage out to as many as 12 (42-30) before the Miners got a driving lay-up from DeJaNae Roebuck and a triple by Gallegos to inch within seven (42-35) heading into halftime.
It remained a seven-point differential (48-41) before UTEP ripped off seven straight points to pull even (48-48) midway through the third quarter. Rice found another level, though, wrapping a 15-1 run around the quarter break to lead by 16 (65-49) with 8:30 remaining in regulation.
UTEP continued to battle, but couldn’t get closer than 11 the rest of the way.
The Miners will look to bounce back when they wrap up the regular season at North Texas at 6 p.m. MT/7 p.m. CT on Saturday.
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