HOUSTON – Rice carried a 28-point halftime lead to an 82-62 win over UTEP on Thursday night in the Tudor Fieldhouse, securing the No. 5 seed from the West Division in the 2022 Heritage Landscape Supply Group C-USA Basketball Championships.
With the loss, the Miners (14-13, 6-11 Conference USA) will serve as the No. 6 seed out of the West and will take on No. 7 UTSA in the first round on Tuesday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. MT/4:30 p.m. CT in Frisco, Texas at the Ford Center at The Star.
The Owls (12-12, 7-9 Conference USA) continued their late season ascent by jumping out to a 51-23 advantage over the first two quarters to hand UTEP its largest halftime deficit of the season. As part of the strong start, Rice shot 58 percent from the floor over the first 20 minutes while rattling off a 15-3 run over the final 5:37 of the second quarter.
Leading 26-15 to start the second, the Owls quickly extended the advantage to 19 with eight straight points, including six in a row by Malia Fisher. Rice also ended the second quarter on an 8-0 run.
For the Miners, Katia Gallegos moved into a tie for 10th for most 3-pointers in a career at UTEP with her 97th triple to get her team on the board at the 7:58 mark of the first quarter. Gallegos wrapped up the night with eight points and seven assists. With three steals, Gallegos is now in sole possession of 10th all-time at UTEP with 144.
Avery Crouse equaled her season high with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor.
In the win, Rice went 26-of-56 (46 percent) from the floor and 5-of-16 (31 percent) on 3-pointers. The Owls capitalized on a flurry of free throws throughout the night, draining 25-of-30 (83 percent) at the stripe. Rice got into the bonus 2:33 into the third quarter as nine fouls were called on the Miners over the first 5:33 of the second half.
UTEP fought back in the final 20 minutes to outscore the Owls 39-31 in the second half. The largest lead for Rice was 31 in the third quarter.
The Miners finished 21-of-59 (36 percent) overall on the night and 7-of-28 (25 percent) on perimeter shots.
UTEP caps off the regular season at North Texas on Saturday at 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT.
The game can be heard on the UTEP Miners app with Mando Medina calling the action. The contest will also be covered live on ESPN+.