Conference USA’s “Bonus Play” will start on Saturday (Feb. 23) as the UTEP Miners (8-17, 3-11 C-USA) will host the Rice Owls (10-17, 5-9 C-USA) for the second time this season.
Following Saturday’s contest, the Miners will play at Charlotte (March 3 at 11 a.m. MT), host Middle Tennessee on “Senior Night” (March 6 at 7 p.m.), and conclude the regular season against the Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro, Tn. (March 9 at 6:30 p.m. MT). The Owls and Blue Raiders are 5-9 in league play.
The 49ers and Miners stand at 3-11 and will battle for a spot in the 2019 Air Force Reserve C-USA Basketball Championships Presented by Baylor Scott & White Sports Performance Center at The Star (March 13-16 in Frisco, Texas).
UTEP and Rice are set to tip off at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center. All seats in the Gold, Silver, Bronze and Copper sections are half-price for Saturday’s contest. Gold prices are $14 (regularly $28), Silver are $12 (regularly $24), Bronze are $10 (regularly $20) and Copper are $8 (regularly $16).
Upper reserved prices remain $8. Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234 and are also available at the UTEP Eastside Ticket Center location (1452 N. Zaragoza Suite A-500) or online.
The Miners are coming off a pair of road losses at LA Tech (71-57 on Feb. 14) and Southern Miss (77-47 on Feb. 16). Efe Odigie continued to have a notable freshman campaign, posting his 10th and 11th double-doubles of the season on the trip.
Against the Bulldogs on Thursday, Odigie scored a team-high 16 points and recorded 10 rebounds. He followed with 10 points and 14 rebounds versus the Golden Eagles. The big man has posted four consecutive double-digit rebound games, including a 15-board effort against FIU. Odigie leads C-USA at 10.1 rebounds per game and is one of two league players averaging a double-double.
Odigie averages 12.7 points per game, while WKU’s Charles Bassey is averaging 14.9 points and 10.0 boards per contest.
The Owls made their way to the Sun City initially for a Jan. 12 contest against the Miners. Rice took an early 25-8 lead, its largest of the game, with just over nine minutes remaining in the first period. UTEP then woke up and outscored the Owls, 21-9, to cut the halftime deficit to five points (34-29).
The big story of the game was Jordan Lathon’s buzzer beater that lifted his squad past Rice, 65-64, in the final seconds. The Owls’ Trey Murphy III had put his squad up 64-63 after he grabbed an offensive rebound and connected on a three-point bucket with 1.6 seconds left on the clock. Ountae Campbell’s first pass attempt was deflected out of bounds in the corner, taking time off the clock. Campbell, with .5 seconds remaining, threw the crosscourt pass to an open Lathon.
The ball took one bounce, Lathon grabbed it, turned around and nailed the baseline jumper just inside the three-point line.
Freshman Nigel Hawkins led the Miners with a career-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field against Rice. Hawkins added seven rebounds and a 3-for-5 effort from downtown. Lathon scored 17 points with seven rebounds and a team-high five assists. Evan Gilyard chipped in with 12 points and four boards, while Odigie tallied nine rebounds and six points.
Rice ranks fourth in C-USA in points per game (74.1), while rating 12th in scoring defense (78.1 ppg). The Owls are shooting 34.5 percent from beyond the arc, ranking fifth in the league. Chris Mullins paces the squad in points per game (12.3).
Ako Adams has dished out a team-high 72 assists and averages 11.7 points per game, and Robert Martin is collecting 11.6 points per outing in 27 games off the bench. Jack Williams leads the team in rebounds per game (7.9).
Fans can listen on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez.
The contest will also be streamed on CUSA.TV.