Feb. 6, 2013
EL PASO, Texas - Despite outscoring UTEP in the second half, Rice University men's basketball was unable to overcome the Miners' fast start in a 65-53 setback at the Don Haskins Center on Wednesday night.
The Owls (5-17, 1-7 C-USA) scored 32 points to UTEP's 30 in the latter 20 minutes and owned a 30-27 advantage on the glass, but the Miners (13-8, 6-2) regained their early momentum down the stretch to hold off the Rice charge.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Austin Ramljak and Keith Washington pulled Rice within 48-40 with seven minutes remaining, but hot three-point shooting from UTEP stifled any further comeback hopes for the Owls.
UTEP connected on each of its first seven shot attempts to stake an early 20-8 lead over the Owls midway through the first half. Rice bounced back to keep the game within reach despite scoring just two points in the period's final three minutes. John Bohannon came off the bench to score UTEP's final eight points before the intermission to give the home team a 35-21 advantage at the break.
Head coach Ben Braun said after the game, "We shut them down in the paint in the second half and forced them to go to the perimeter. We outscored them in the second half and out-rebounded them in the game tonight. I thought Julian DeBose came out strong in the second half and was very active on the glass. Tamir Jackson also got a lot of tough rebounds for us."
After scoring just two points in the first half, Jackson found his rhythm in the second half to score 10 more points to lead the Owls. He shot 4-of-13 from the field with a three-pointer to accompany four rebounds and three of the team's 10 assists.
DeBose was Rice's leading rebounder with seven boards. The sophomore shot 3-of-6 for eight points and dished out a pair of assists as well. Bahrom Firozgary made his first career start and tallied four rebounds with two points in 19 minutes.
Ramljak and reigning Conference USA Freshman of the Week Max Guercy also scored in double figures as Ramljak sank 4-of-8 attempts with a pair of treys and Guercy sank 5-of-12 attempts from the field. Ramljak added three rebounds, two assists and two of Rice's five steals, while Guercy dished out an assist and hauled in a pair of rebounds.
For the game, the Owls shot 41.2 percent from the field and 6-of-17 from downtown. After shooting 53.8 percent in the first half, UTEP finished the game at a 51.1 percent clip. The Miners matched a season high with 10 three-pointers, including four from C.J. Cooper, who led the team with 14 points.
Rice converted 11 offensive rebounds into 13 second-chance points. UTEP held a slight 28-26 advantage on points in the paint.
Rice returns home on Saturday for a one-game homestand. The Owls host SMU at 7 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.