Rice spoils UTEP Senior Day, Miners receive C-USA Trophy
POSTED: Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 7:28pm
UPDATED: Sunday, February 26, 2012 - 11:39pm
Gloria Brown (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Kayla Thornton (11 points, 10 boards) each posted double-doubles but visiting Rice spoiled “Senior Day” with a 52-48 victory at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (25-3, 14-1 C-USA) led by six at the break (28-22) before the Owls (15-13, 9-6 C-USA) rallied behind the play of Jessica Kuster, who finished with a game-high 22 points. She had 18 over the final 20 minutes, but UTEP still trailed by just four (50-46) with 3:13 to play.
UTEP would keep Rice scoreless over the next three minutes, giving itself a chance to rally. Brown sank a pair of free throws to get the Miners within two (50-48) with 1:03 left. Thornton came up with a steal on the ensuing possession, but couldn’t convert the fastbreak chance amongst several players.
Freshman Chrishauna Parker got the offensive board and was fouled, only to have a pair of free-throw attempts rattle out. Thornton outworked everyone to secure another offensive rebound after the second miss, and UTEP called timeout with 30 seconds to play.
UTEP inbounded the ball and eventually it ended up in the hands of senior Kim Smith, whose shot was off target. Thornton came away with the weak side rebound but was called for a traveling violation as she tried to go up for the game-tying-shot.
With the shot clock off the Miners had no choice but to foul, and Rice’s Brianna Hypolite managed to make both charity-stripe tosses with seven seconds to play.
The setback brings UTEP’s 15-game winning streak to a close, but it cannot take away the accomplishments to this point for the 2012 C-USA Champion Miners. UTEP stands at 25-3 overall, including 14-1 in league play, and its three losses have been by a combined seven points.
UTEP held Rice to 37.0 percent from the floor (20-of-54), including 20.0 percent (3-of-15) from three-point range. It also out-rebounded the Owls, 45-33, and enjoyed an advantage of 26-15 in scoring from the bench.
Kuster was the lone visitor to reach double figures in scoring, with Christal Porter and D’Frantz Smart each providing eight points.
The Miners shot 41.7 percent (10-of-24) during the first half but Rice tightened up after the break, and it finished at 32.0 percent (16-of-50) overall. Another factor in the Orange and Blue coming up short was going 13-of-23 at the free-throw line.
Anete Steinberga chipped in six points while Erika Warren contributed five, in buoying Brown and Thornton.
UTEP will look to get back on track and build some momentum for the league tournament when it plays at UAB at 6 p.m. MST in the 2011-12 regular-season finale for both squads on March 1.