Photo by Ruben R.Ramirez| El Paso Herald Post
HOUSTON – UTEP women’s basketball (5-4, 2-2 C-USA) fell to Conference USA powerhouse Rice (8-1, 4-0 C-USA) by a score of 55-43 on Saturday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston to close out the weekend series.
The Miners struggled offensively on Saturday, shooting 27.1 percent (16-59) and 6-of-23 from three, while Rice mainly took advantage of points in the paint (28) and capitalizing off UTEP turnovers (12 points) to earn the victory.
UTEP stood toe-to-toe with the defending champions in the first half, ending the second quarter down by two, 22-20, entering the break. But Rice came out of the locker room to shoot 60 percent from the field in the third quarter, compared to 21.4 percent by the Miners, to head to the fourth with a double-digit lead.
The Miners continued to battle in the fourth, going on an 8-0 scoring run, the team’s best stretch of the game with 1:16 remaining in regulation, but Rice was able to remain in control of the game with late possessions and free throws.
The Owls have now won 39 of their last 41 conference contests dating back to 2018. Last season, Rice pushed their conference winning streak to 30 straight wins over C-USA opponents before it was snapped, the longest in league history.
Rice has also won 15 straight games at Tudor Fieldhouse, which ranks as one of the longest active streaks in the NCAA. Over the last three-plus seasons, Rice is 43-2 at home and have won 20 consecutive C-USA games at Tudor Fieldhouse.
UTEP was led by Katia Gallegos, who was also the game’s leading scorer after totaling 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Isis Lopes also added 8 points and 5 rebounds, while Michelle Pruitt had 5 points and 4 rebounds in the contest.
Rice had two players reach double figures with Sydne Wiggins leading the way with 15 points, while also adding 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Lauren Schwartz posted 12 points for the Owls, along with 8 rebounds and 2 steals. Nancy Mulkey led Rice with 10 boards and 6 blocks.
Next up, UTEP returns home to host North Texas in Conference USA play on January 15-16 at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso. The opening game on Friday, Jan. 15 is set to tip off at 7 p.m. MT and will be streamed on ESPN+, while Saturday’s contest is slated for 2 p.m. MT on CUSA.TV.
For complete coverage of UTEP women’s basketball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPWBB (Twitter), @utepwbb (Instagram) and on Facebook or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.