Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez

Miners set to challenge co-league leader Rice on road Thursday

The UTEP women’s basketball team (15-12, 8-8 C-USA) will open up the final week of the regular season by playing at co-league leader Rice (19-8, 14-2 C-USA) at 6 p.m. MT Thursday.

“Our team has been looking forward to getting another opportunity to play Rice. We felt that we played well enough to bet them last time we met,” head coach Kevin Baker shared. “We are still looking for that signature win on the season, and beating Rice on its home floor would get us ‘over the hump’ and ready to take our program to the next level. Rice always plays great at home, but I believe our team is focused and determined enough to win.”

The Miners have won two of their past three games, including dispatching Southern Miss, 80-72, on February 29 to improve to 3-0 under Kevin Baker on “Senior Day.”

After dropping consecutive contests, the Owls have peeled off three straight wins. Most recently it came in the form of a 73-60 OT victory at LA Tech on February 29.

Dating to the 2018-19 season, Rice is 37-2 at home, including 22-1 in league play. The last home C-USA loss for the Owls was to LA Tech on March 1, 2018. This year Rice is 11-1 at home (7-0 in C-USA). UTEP is 3-6 on the road (2-5 C-USA).

The Miners are alone at seventh place in the league at 8-8, while Rice is tied for first place at 14-2 alongside ODU.

The Miners’ first four league wins were by an average of 29.5 points, but UTEP showed it has the ability to take care of business in a close contest against North Texas. The Miners rallied from a 10-point deficit on the way to holding off the Mean Green, 67-63, on January 25. It also marked the first time this season that the Orange and Blue overcame deficits at the half (down five) and through three quarters (down three) to win a game.

UTEP also was involved in a nail biter in its 82-76 OT victory against Charlotte on February 6. The Miners trailed by four with two minutes to play in the contest before rallying to force OT.

Rice leads the series, 30-16, including a 17-7 mark when playing in Houston. The Owls have won four in a row in the series, including holding off UTEP, 69-61, at the Don Haskins Center on January 23 in the most-recent match-up between the programs. The two squads have squared off at least once annually since the 1996-97 campaign, with the sequence beginning when both were in the WAC and continuing into C-USA. UTEP is 13-9 against Rice since the start of the 2007-08 season.

The contest will be streamed by (subscription based). It will also be broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso with Duke Keith on the call.