EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP men’s basketball was edged out by Rice, 72-69, in overtime at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday. It was UTEP’s second consecutive game that went into overtime and second consecutive loss in Conference USA play.
After they entered halftime down 32-25, UTEP fell behind as many as 15 points with 11:35 to go in the game. UTEP rallied to cut the deficit down to 49-46 at the 8:53 mark of the second half after a Tae Hardy free throw.
Rice then replied with another scoring burst to extend and protect their lead to 60-48 with 3:23 to go in the game. Then, UTEP rallied again as they went on a 13-2 run. A Mario Mario McKinney Jr. basket brought UTEP within 1, as they trailed 62-61 with 42 seconds left in the second half.
Rice took a timeout and had one more chance to extend their lead. Evee Travis had his lay-up attempt blocked and UTEP regained possession. With three seconds left in the second half, UTEP went to Calvin Solomon. Solomon was fouled and was sent to the free throw line for two shots.
Solomon made the first to tie the game at 62. He missed the second free throw, and the game was sent into overtime.
In overtime, UTEP was outscored 10-5 and were handed their third straight loss and second straight overtime loss.
“First of all, give credit to Rice, they’ve got a good basketball team,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “It was just a frustrating night for us overall, we couldn’t really get anything going. If you’re going to be in close games, we’ve got to get better at a lot of stuff.”
“You’ve got to take care of the basketball, we had 18 turnovers, that’s way too many,” Golding said. “You’ve got to rebound the basketball, it was even on the glass, we should outrebound them on the glass. And then we didn’t make free throws. It’s hard to win close games when you do those things. You’re playing with fire, and it’s burned us now with Kent State, UAB and now this game.”
UTEP shot 40.0 percent from the floor but were 5-26 on 3-pointers and 10-20 at the charity stripe.
Mario McKinney Jr. came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points while Shamar Givance added 12 points, eight rebounds and a game-high six assists. Solomon had 9 points and 8 rebounds. Otis Frazier III and Kevin Kalu both had 5 points and 5 boards.
Rice was led by Quincy Olivari’s 19 points. Max Fielder was a force to be reckoned with down low as he recorded a 14-point, 15 rebound double-double. Rice shot 38.1% from the floor, 29.6% from three-point range.
UTEP (8-6, 1-2 Conference USA) is idle for a week before playing at LA Tech on Jan. 7 at 1:00 p.m. MT/2:00 p.m. CT.