Photo by Johnny Yturales

UTEP to Host Improved Rice Squad Saturday Night

The UTEP men’s hoops team will conclude its three-game homestand against Conference USA foe Rice on Saturday night in the Haskins Center. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

“[Rice Head Coach] Scott Pera has five freshmen over there. Their young guys are playing well and he’s also got a transfer who’s playing well right now,” first-year UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “They can really shoot the basketball and score the ball from watching them play. They’re going to put a lot of pressure on us in terms of guarding and trying to defend the three-point line. In transition, they play fast and push the ball. It’s another game where we’ll have to come out and play hard defensively and try to execute on offense.”

The Miners (5-9, 0-3 C-USA) fell to league leader North Texas, 58-51, on Thursday, while the Owls (7-10, 2-2 C-USA), after winning a pair of league contests in a row, fell at UTSA, 95-79. Rice defended its home court by beating Southern Miss, 73-65, on Jan. 3 and LA Tech, 78-66, on January 5.

UTEP freshman sensation Efe Odigie led the Miners with 13 points and eight rebounds, while blocking a career-high four shots against the Mean Green. Odigie is the only C-USA player averaging a double-double (15.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg). Fellow freshman Nigel Hawkins was the only other Miner in double figures as he went for 11 points versus UNT. Hawkins added three assists and three rebounds.

Terry’s other freshman starter, Jordan Lathon, made his way back into the starting lineup after missing both of last week’s games against UTSA with an injury.

Lathon tied his career best with three steals and led his squad with four assists. Lathon chipped in with nine points, four rebounds and two blocked shots.

UTEP leading scorer Evan Gilyard (17.2 ppg) was held to eight points on Thursday, ending his double-figure scoring streak at a career-high nine games. Gilyard also tallied six rebounds.

The Miners blocked a season-high eight shots against the Mean Green, while forcing 19 turnovers. UTEP also held North Texas to its second-lowest point total of the season and fewest points in a half (22) during the opening 20 minutes.

UTEP’s scoring defense (68.7) and field goal percentage defense (.419) both rank sixth in C-USA.

The Owls’ scoring offense (75.9) is ranked fourth in the league, while their scoring defense (80.2) ranks 12th.

Rice freshman guard Chris Mullins leads the team at 13.0 points per game, while junior guard Ako Adams leads the team in assists (51) and ranks second at 12.5 points per contest. Junior forward Robert Martin ranks third on the squad in scoring (12.5 ppg). Graduate student 6-8 forward Jack Williams paces the team with 7.8 rebounds per game.

The Owls fell to UTSA as Mullins and freshman forward Quentin Millora-Brown each led with 14 points. Millora-Brown led Rice with eight rebounds and Mullins dished out a team-high four assists. The Roadrunners went 36-for-73 (49.3 percent) from the field, including a 12-for-31 effort from beyond the arc.

Saturday night’s contest will feature Miners Got Talent halftime performance.

Tickets start at $8, while UTEP student tickets are free by visiting Discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more are also available. Call 747-5234 for tickets.

The contest will be streamed on CUSA.TV and can be heard on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellin. The Spanish broadcast is on ESPN Deportes 1650AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez.