By: Tim Andrzejewski (email@example.com)
Box Score | Box Score | USATSI Photo Gallery
HOUSTON - Rice shot a season-low 34.5% as the Owls saw their five-game winning streak snapped, falling 79-71 to UTEP Saturday night from Tudor Fieldhouse.
Egor Koulechov led Rice with his eighth double-double of the year, scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Chad Lott had a season-high 13 points while recording seven rebounds and four assists. Marcus Evans added 11 points.
"We were fighting it all game," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "We had great effort, but we just kept making it hard on ourselves. This was the first time in a while that we were inconsistent on the defensive end. A lot of our missed shots in the first half affected our defense. In the second half, we didn't do a good job of getting stops."
UTEP scored the first five points of the game. Marquez Letcher-Ellis then scored five straight to tie the game. However, the Miners went on an 11-1 run to take a 16-6 lead 8:24 into the game.
Rice bounced back as Lott and Evans each scored four points over the next 1:39 to pull the Owls to within 16-14.
After UTEP scored six straight points Koulechov made a pair of free throws. The teams traded baskets before Deon Barrett made a three to give the Miners a nine-point lead five minutes left. But Rice scored six of the final eight points to head into halftime trailing 29-24.
The Miners scored five straight to open the second half. Connor Cashaw made a layup and Koulechov made one-of-two free throws. But UTEP scored nine of the next 12 points to take a 43-40 lead just five minutes into the half. Koulechov made a pair of free throws, but Jake Flaggert's three gave the Miners their largest lead of the game at 46-32.
The teams went back and forth over the next seven minutes. With UTEP leading 66-53, Evans and Marcus Jackson hit back-to-back three-pointers to pull Rice to within seven points, 66-59, with 4:13 to play. However, the Owls turned the ball over three straight possessions as UTEP pushed its lead back to 12 points, sealing the victory.
Rice was just 20-of-58 from the field, including 8-of-29 (27.6%) from three. UTEP connected on 54.0% (27-of-50) and 64.3% (9-of-14). Rice was also outrebounded, 35-to-33.
Rice looks to get back on track next Thursday, Feb. 23, when it hosts Southern Miss. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and will be live-streamed by CUSA.tv.