Rice Downs UTEP 71-68 For Series Split
Contrary to Friday's scoring fiasco, the Miners cooled off on Saturday, as Rice outlasted them 71-68 in the final minutes to split the series.
UTEP (6-4, 2-2 C-USA) has now split their first two series in league play. The Owls, who shot 52% FG (.471 3PT), totaled 36 points in the paint and forced 11 UTEP turnovers to steal one in El Paso.
Even though the Miners logged 15 takeaways of their own, they shot just 39% FG tonight (23-for-59) and struggled to find consistency through long stretches.
“We got great looks but I thought there was a time or two we were pressing a little bit for whatever reason and we were trying the play too fast,” Rodney Terry said. “But at the end of the day we didn’t make some shots we made yesterday and we had some great looks tonight.”
Jamal Bieniemy was UTEP's best all-around player on Saturday, scoring 16 points and dishing out three assists. Bryson Williams (13 points, 6-for-16) and Souley Boum (12 points, 2-for-13) were the only other Miners in double figures.
The first half featured eight lead changes and 11 times the contest was tied. The Miners started things off with a couple of 3-pointers from Boum and Williams. It was a tied ballgame during the first five minutes, 12-12, at the 14:53 point. From then on, it was both teams trading the lead back and forth.
UTEP shot 50% from the floor in the first half (11-for-22), including 50% from 3-point. The Owls forced eight turnovers defensively, while they scored 20 of their 34 first half points in the paint. Despite being a heavy 3-point shooting team, the Owls attempted just nine 3's in the opening 20 minutes.
The Miners explored with various lineups and dipped into their bench a bit more, seeing guys like Vuk Vulikic and Efe Odigie get some more minutes in the first half.
Their bench rotation thinned out in the second half, where Rice busted open a 13-2 run over nearly four minutes to take a 47-39 lead. They led by as much as 11 points in the second half (62-51). Before the Owls went on the 8-0 run to get their 11 point lead, the Miners cut the score to within three points.
Despite some late surges by the Miners, they were unable to mount a comeback and steal one from the Owls, falling 71-68 in the end.
Max Fiedler totaled 19 points and 13 boards, while Travis Evee hit a game-high 21 points with six assists for the Owls.
Up next: The Miners will face North Texas (5-5, 1-1 C-USA), who is fresh off a series split against UTSA over the weekend. Tipoff for their Friday contest is set for 6 p.m. MT.