UTEP (14-4, 2-1 C-USA) seeks its 12th straight home victory on Saturday against improving Rice (8-9, 0-3 C-USA). The Owls have lost four road games by a total of 18 points, including nailbiters at Santa Clara (66-65), North Texas (68-65) and Texas (62-59). Rice owns signature victories over LSU (74-68) and TCU (70-61) at Tudor Fieldhouse and took Southern Miss to overtime on Wednesday before succumbing 81-78.
The Miners earned a much-needed split of their first C-USA road trip of the season with a 69-58 win at Tulane on Wednesday. UTEP lost in triple overtime at UAB, 100-97, on Jan. 8.
UTEP will be home for three of its next five C-USA games, hosting Tulane on Jan. 26 and UCF on Feb. 2. After Saturday, the Miners will take a week-long break from competition before returning to action at Houston on Jan. 22.
The Miners are 33-7 in C-USA home games since joining the league for the 2005-06 season with an active 11-game winning streak. UTEP is 14-1 in its last 15 C-USA games at the Haskins Center.
Rice Junior guard Connor Frizzelle scored 21 points in the Owls’ 81-78 loss to Southern Miss on Wednesday. Rice led by 13 points early in the second half before the Golden Eagles rallied for the win behind Gary Flowers, who collected 24 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore forward Arsalan Kazemi leads C-USA in rebounding (11.2 avg.) and field goal percentage (.633) and ranks seventh in scoring (17.5 ppg). He pulled down 17 boards versus LSU, tied for the second-top total by a C-USA player this season. Kazemi has recorded 11 point/rebound double-double performances in 2010-11.
Sophomore guard Tamir Jackson averages 13.4 ppg and Frizzelle 9.5 ppg. The Owls are fourth in C-USA in rebounding margin (+4.7) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1). Frizzelle is third in the league in free throw percentage (.889).