HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University men's basketball knocked down a season-high 12 three-pointers and rallied back from a second-half deficit, but UTEP was too much for the Owls down the stretch and claimed a 66-57 win at Tudor Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon.
Marcus Jackson led the Owls with 20 points just two days after notching 27 in the win over UTSA. The sophomore drained five three-pointers for a second-straight game and hauled in a career-high eight rebounds for Rice. He shot 5-of-7 from the field and 5-of-6 from downtown to average 23.5 points on the week.
Head coach Mike Rhoades said, "We have to make sure we don't play on our heels and we have to attack. I thought as the game went on we were able to do that today, but we came out of halftime not ready to go. We let them get up by 16 points with about 16 minutes left and we can't get down to a team like this. We fought back and cut it to two points but we need to do a better job of cleaning up games at the end. If you put yourself in a position to win against some really good teams, you've got to find a way to do it."
The Owls got the strong start they needed against one of the preseason Conference USA favorites. Rice (4-9, 1-1) worked up to a 16-12 advantage before UTEP took off on a run of its own to regain the lead around the midway point in the period. Dan Peera pulled the Owls within 20-19 with under seven minutes to play in the half on a three-pointer, but the Miners answered to hold off the home team and took a 30-21 lead into the locker room at the break.
The Miners (10-4, 2-0) then started the second half with a flurry to work up to a 42-26 advantage early in the frame. The Owls fought back to within 10 points with just under 14 minutes to play and continue to chip away. Trailing 50-39, Rice put together nine-straight points in under four minutes to claw within two points with 5:30 to play. UTEP made one last run to get the score back to double figures and did not let the Owls back within any closer than nine points down the stretch.
Seth Gearhart added 10 points and tied Jackson for the team lead with eight rebounds. The senior scored seven of his points after the intermission and sank all three shot attempts from long range. He added two assists and a block before fouling out down in the waning moments after 36 minutes of action. Peera finished the game with five points on 2-of-2 shooting with one rebound.
Reigning C-USA Freshman of the Week Bishop Mency tallied eight points with a season-best five assists. The rookie knocked down a pair of three-pointers with two rebounds and a block.
Rice's 12 three-pointers came on just 23 attempts (52.2 percent). However, Rice sank just 7-of-30 two-point attempts on the afternoon to settle in at a 35.8 field goal percentage. The Miners shot 48.1 percent from the field and 8-of-16 from downtown.
The teams deadlocked on the glass with 31 rebounds apiece. Rice turned 11 offensive rebounds into nine second-chance points and converted nine UTEP turnovers into 12 points. In all, the Owls dished out 14 assists on 19 baskets.
UTEP's Earvin Morris notched 16 points off the bench to lead his team while C-USA's leading scorer and rebounder, Vince Hunter, added 15 points and 10 rebounds with four assists and four blocks.
The Owls close out the three-game home stand on Saturday, Jan. 10 against North Texas. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse and the game will be televised on American Sports Network.