POSTED: Saturday, February 5, 2011 - 5:27pm
UPDATED: Saturday, February 5, 2011 - 11:48pm
Julyan Stone scored a career-high 23 points, including 15 in the second half, as UTEP slipped past Rice, 59-53, on Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Miners (18-5, 6-2 C-USA), playing their first game in a week after a winter storm wiped out Wednesday's scheduled game versus UCF, took a 10-point lead in the second half and held off the pesky Owls (11-12, 3-6 C-USA) down the stretch.
Rice led for the last time at 23-21 before Stone knotted the score on a driving layup with 4:09 remaining in the first half. The Miners went ahead 27-23 on a jumper by Gabriel McCulley with 2:17 left, completing a 9-0 run, before Cory Pflieger pulled the Owls to within a point (27-26) on a three pointer with 16 seconds on the clock.
With the game tied at 30 early in the second half, UTEP reeled off 10 straight points to surge to a 40-30 lead on a Randy Culpepper jumper with 12:27 left.
But the Owls, who have lost four C-USA home games by a total of 20 points, weren't done. A 7-0 spurt cut into a 44-36 Miner lead and left the Owls down by one, 44-43, with 8:20 to go.
They trailed 54-52 when star forward Arsalan Kazemi was fouled with 1:47 to play. Kazemi missed the first free throw and made the second, then Stone cashed in on a couple of foul shots to give UTEP a 56-53 lead with 1:22 remaining.
Tamir Jackson and Kazemi missed shots on the other end, and Jeremy Williams gave UTEP some breathing room on free throws with 14 seconds left.
Stone's previous high scoring total was 19 points versus Texas Southern on Nov. 14, 2008. He finished 7-for-9 from the field and 9-for-10 from the line with nine rebounds and three steals.
Williams scored 12 points and Culpepper 10 for the Miners, who once again did a dynamite defensive job on Kazemi. He has put together 14 double-doubles this season, but in two games versus UTEP has been limited to seven points on 3-for-14 shooting. Kazemi picked up two quick fouls in this game and was limited to 22 minutes.
Connor Frizzelle led Rice with 13 points, Pflieger scored 12 and Jackson 11. After making six of their first eight shots, the Owls finished 17-for-51 from the floor (33.3 percent).
Following a week-long break from games, the Miners will play the first of three straight Saturday games at the Haskins Center on Feb. 12 when they take on SMU at 7:05 p.m.
UTEP has reached the midway point of the 16-game C-USA schedule and sits atop the league standings with the 6-2 mark.