FILE: “We played some of the best defense that we’ve played all year,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I thought we guarded to a plan. The issue was for us tonight was that we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. | Photo courtesy Michael Reese / UTEP Athletics
HOUSTON – UTEP held Rice to its second-lowest scoring output of the season but couldn’t generate enough offense in a 56-42 road setback Friday evening.
The Owls (15-3, 5-1 C-USA) rode a barrage of 3-pointers (12-27) to fuel their offensive effort against the Miners (12-7, 3-3 C-USA). At the other end of the court the Orange and Blue connected on 31.5 percent (17-54) from the floor, including 3-13 (23.1 percent) from distance. Rebounding also went in favor of the home side, 37-32.
UTEP tried to compensate for that by committing a season-low 10 turnovers and holding a 22-14 advantage for points in the paint but it wasn’t enough to make up for the off shooting night. Tamara Seda led the way for the Miners with 13 points, which tied as the most by any player on the court, while Jordan Alexander pitched in nine points.
Erica Ogwumike led the way for the Owls with a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds). She was joined in double figures by Nicole Iademarco (13 points) and Wendy Knight (11 points).
“We played some of the best defense that we’ve played all year,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I thought we guarded to a plan. The issue was for us tonight was that we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. We’ve got to figure out a way to get better offensively and quickly because we’ve got a game Sunday. Anytime this team is willing to guard like that we’re going to have a chance to win.”
The Miners led 2-0 three minutes into the contest before the Owls started to find their rhythm by tallying 11 straight points. The surge forced Baker to call timeout. Seda stopped the sequence and a nearly four-minute scoring drought with an offensive putback. The deficit remained at nine (15-6) with 1:13 to play in the period but the Miners accounted for the final four points in the frame to trim the margin to five (15-10) through 10 minutes of action.
The Owls knocked down a three to start the second quarter before lay-ups from Seda and Zuzanna Puc brought the Orange and Blue to within four (18-14) with 7:31 to play in the half. The score stayed that way for almost the next four minutes but the Owls hit three triples in the span of 59 seconds to extend their advantage to 13 (27-14) with 2:58 remaining in the stanza. Seda split a pair of free throws to account for the first points by the Miners in more than five minutes. Rice answered with a lay-up in the waning seconds to carry a 14-point cushion (29-15) into the locker room.
Rice struck first in the third quarter with a lay-up to go up by 16 (31-15) before a mini 4-0 Miner run made it a 12-point contest (31-19) with 7:11 to play in the frame. The home side nipped it in the bud with 12 consecutive points, including the first seven by Iademarco, to lead 43-19 with 2:27 left in regulation. Roeshonda Patterson made a driving lay-up in traffic to stop the surge but the damage was substantial.
The Miners hit back-to-back triples to begin the fourth quarter on a high note and reduce the once 25-point disadvantage to 15 (46-31) with 8:38 left in regulation. After Rice knocked down a 3-pointer of its own Seda grabbed an offensive rebound and banked a lay-up off the glass to make it 49-33.
Five straight points by the Owls, though, stopped the surge and essentially wiped out any remaining chances of a comeback. The Miners continued to play hard down the stretch but there was too much ground to make up.
UTEP will wrap up the mini two-game roadswing at North Texas at 2 p.m. MST/3 p.m. CST Sunday. Duke Keith will have the call on 600 ESPN El Paso. The contest will also be live streamed on CUSA.tv (subscription required).