HOUSTON (KTSM) – Rice guard Travis Evee drilled a floater at the buzzer as the Owls defeated UTEP 83-82 on Saturday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Evee went the length of the court in 6.3 seconds to make the game-winner for Rice (12-5, 3-3 Conference USA) after Tae Hardy sank two free throws for UTEP (9-8, 2-4 C-USA) to give them the lead after a furious rally by the Miners from nine points down with seven minutes to go.
The Miners have now lost five of their last six games; those five defeats have come by a total of just 15 points. It’s also their second loss to Rice in that span after the Owls beat UTEP 72-67 in overtime on New Year’s Eve.
“It isn’t going our way right now,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “I’ve said it a lot though, tough times pass, tough people last. I feel for our team, they deserve better. We’re going to keep fighting. We have some tough dudes.”
Hardy had 20 points and five steals to lead UTEP in the loss, while Shamar Givance had 16 points and 10 assists before fouling out late in the game. Mario McKinney had 14 points off the bench and Calvin Solomon chipped in 12 points for the Miners.
As for Rice, Quincy Olivari led the Owls with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Evee had 21 points, including the game-winner.
Trailing by three points with under 30 seconds left, UTEP forced two Rice turnovers on inbounds plays to take the lead. Off the first one, McKinney scored a layup, then off the second, Hardy was fouled and hit two free throws to lead into the Evee buzzer beater.
“We gave ourselves a chance but (Evee) hit a tough shot,” Golding said. “I’m impressed with the hustle play Tae Hardy had and then the one Calvin (Solomon) had right here (by the UTEP bench) to give us a chance. It was just multiple effort plays. The guys fought back and competed, and that’s what you like to see as a coach. Tonight, we didn’t guard the way we’re capable of guarding. It’s going to be tough for us to win games when we give up 83 points. We are going to continue to lay it on the line and keep competing.”
Postgame, the two sides did not shake hands, but the reasoning behind it was not immediately made known. Rice and head coach Scott Pera celebrated the win by walking around the arena; UTEP and Golding eventually walked off the floor.
This is the second time in two years that UTEP and Rice have not shaken hands after a game. On Jan. 9, 2021, Pera and then-UTEP coach Rodney Terry got into it late in the Owls’ win at the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP will have a very tough turnaround now, as it travels to North Carolina to play Charlotte on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. MT.