Rice 85, UTEP 81, 2OT: Miners Blow 20-Point Lead After Fierce Owls Comeback
The next man mentality helps to help lay the foundation for a team to rally around, but doesn't always prove to work.
When freshman sensation forward Efe Odigie went out in practice Friday night, the Miners knew they had to rally around his absence and fight in the first game of C-USA Bonus Play against Rice.
Through 50 minutes of basketball, which featured two overtimes, the Miners dominated the first 23 minutes, but the Owls awoke and fought back from a 20-point deficit, outlasting the Miners 85-81 in double overtime.
It was freshman guard Jordan Lathon's 32 points, 18 rebounds on 12-of-16 shooting that led the Miners on Saturday evening. But their 16 turnovers, -2 rebounding margin and poor second half shooting (28 percent) ultimately led to their demise.
Odigie was on the bench for the Miners in a walking boot and crutches, while it is still unclear if he will be back with the Miners this season.
Miners broke through in the first half on an electric start and didn't look back. They broke through with an early 7-1 run to start the game, followed by some nice 3-pointers by Lathon and Evan Gilyard.
UTEP went on runs of 6-0 and 14-1 throughout the first half, where Lathon caught his stride offensively. Had he not taken the final shot of the half, he would have been a perfect 7-for-7, but he finished with 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting with five rebounds.
Ezeagu, who filled in for the injured Odigie, played some respectable first half minutes, including two points, three rebounds and two blocks.
Gilyard finished the first half with eight points in 18 minutes, as he returned to the starting lineup for the Miners.
As a team, the Miners shot an exceptional 50 percent (13-for-26), while holding the Owls to 24 percent (6-of-25). They also out-rebounded the Owls 23-14 in the first half.
In the second half, the Owls showed some fight, starting the game on 6-for-9 shooting and went on two separate 7-0 runs through the second half.
At the 17 minute mark, the Miners led by 20. By the end of regulation, Rice went on to out-score the Miners 43-26 to close out regulation.
Rice took the lead with under a minute to go, but the Miners tied the game by some late shots from Lathon and Thomas.
In the first overtime, Lathon made five of the Miners 10 points before fouling out with under two minutes to go in the first overtime.
The Miners were out-manned by the second overtime, while they were not able to escape the Owls' shooting success.
UTEP finished the game shooting .39/.45/.59, while Rice shot .39/.40/.61. Lathon's 32 points were the most by a freshman in UTEP history and his 30-plus points were the first since Lee Moore in 2016.
Hawkins and Gilyard both finished with 16 points, while Thomas (13) also scored in double figures.
Rice was led by Robert Martin's 23 points off the bench and Chris Mullins' 19 points.
Up next, the Miners will take on Charlotte on the road on Sunday, March 3. UTEP must now win its final three games in order to have a chance at making the C-USA Tournament.