UTEP Women Lose To Rice
Gloria Brown (18 points) and Kim Smith (14 points) each had big nights off the bench but the UTEP women’s basketball team was edged out at Rice, 76-69, inside Tudor Fieldhouse Thursday evening.
The Miners (13-11, 5-7 C-USA) vaulted out to an early 6-1 advantage but an 18-7 push by the Owls (16-10, 8-4 C-USA) gave the home side a lead it would never relinquish. UTEP fought back throughout the tilt, eventually whittling a 10-point deficit (60-50) with 7:20 to play down to one (68-67, at 2:27). Rice scored the next four points, though, and managed to hold on down the stretch.
UTEP made more shots (26-of-61, 42.6 percent) than the Owls (23-of-58, 39.7 percent) while also committing fewer turnovers (14 to 16) but was ultimately done in at the free-throw line and on the glass. Rice drilled 22-of-26 at the charity stripe-compared to 11-of-15 by UTEP- while also out-boarding the Miners by 12 (42-30).
“It was a tough one tonight,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “We didn’t defend well enough. We can’t let people score 76 points.”
Brown continued her strong play of late by hitting 8-of-14 shots en route to another double-digit scoring night. Smith supported her with 14 points, including nine via the triple. Freshman Kelli Willingham pitched in nine points while senior Ashley Milian chipped in eight and junior Dietra Caldwell contributed seven.
UTEP took good care of the basketball for the third straight game but could not come up with the plays when they mattered the most. Morgan Mayse led her squad with 23 points and was a perfect 4-of-4 from three-point range. Her last triple was the biggest, with it putting the Owls up by five (72-67) with 2:02 to play. Freshman Jessica Kuster (18 points, 14 boards) and Brianna Hypolite (11 points) also got in on the act.
Rice lived at the free-throw line early and often, with its aggressive style of play factoring into UTEP being tagged for 24 fouls. Those calls led to 26 tosses at the charity stripe-seven more than the, and to their credit the Owls knocked down 22 of them.
UTEP hit its first three jumpers from the floor en route to grabbing a five-point (6-1) lead just two minutes into the game. Mayse rattled off seven straight points to put Rice up, 8-6, before UTEP crept back ahead by one (9-8) on a long triple by Smith.
The two teams traded blows the next couple of minutes, and the game was tied at 13 with 14:07 to play in the first half. Kuster and Mayse combined to tally six straight for the Owls, and as it turned out, they would not trail from that point on.
Mini runs were exchanged early on in the second stanza, with one midway through the period affording Rice its largest lead of the game (53-42). Willingham fueled a 6-0 surge by hitting a trey and then setting up one for Eglite only to have the Owls extend it back out to double digits (60-50) following a pair of makes at the free-throw line by Kuster.
UTEP scrapped and clawed back, but could never get all the way back.
The Miners will wrap up their two-game road swing by taking on unbeaten league leader Houston at 1 p.m. MST Sunday. The Cougars (21-4, 12-0 C-USA) posted their 12th straight win since the onset of Conference USA play by throttling Tulsa, 72-56, on the road Thursday.