By: Tim Andrzejewski (email@example.com)
Junior Connor Cashaw led all players with 17 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Tim Harrison tied a career-high with 11 points and senior Bishop Mency had nine points. Graduate A.J. Lapray and freshman Malik Osborne added seven points apiece.
"I certainly didn't see that coming, (UTEP) shooting the ball like they did." said Rice head coach Scott Pera. "They haven't shot it like that all year. But, they certainly deserve all the credit. They had open shots and they made them."
Mency opened the game with a pair of three-pointers and Cashaw hit a jumper as Rice (3-12, 0-2 C-USA) jumped out to an early 8-4 lead. UTEP (6-8, 1-1) answered with a three and a layup to take the lead, but Rice came right back as Harrison connected on back-to-back threes to give Rice a 14-9 lead 7:02 into the game.
However, the Owls missed 10 of their next 11 shots as UTEP went on a 10-2 run over the next 6:48 to take a 19-16 lead. Harrison hit a jumper and A.J. Lapray made a three-pointer, but the Miners tied the game at 21. Lapray then hit his second straight three-pointer and was fouled, converting the four-point play as Rice took a 25-21 lead at the under-four media timeout.
The Miners scored eight of the next 10 points, but Rice closed the half with baskets by Ako Adams and Cashaw as Rice went into halftime with a 31-29 lead.
After UTEP opened the second half with a basket, Osborne converted a three-point-play. The Miners tied the game at 34, but a tip-in by Osborne followed by a three-pointer from Cashaw gave Rice a 39-34 lead just 2:28 into the second half. However, Rice made just two of its next 11 shots as UTEP went on a 17-4 to take a 51-43 lead with 10:46 to play.
Mency cut the lead to six with a layup but UTEP scored five straight points. Mency then made one-of-two free throws and Najja Hunter hit Miles Lester for a layup to pull Rice within eight points with 7:52 remaining. But the Miners made seven straight shots to put the game away.
Added Pera, "Our defensive effort was not up to par (from what) it normally is and what it should be. But again, (UTEP) did a really good job of finding the open man (and) getting the hot hand the ball. They really shot the ball well."
Rice connected on just 36.1% (22-of-61) from the field and 24.2% (8-of-33) from three while UTEP shot 55.4% (31-of-56) from the floor and 63.2% (12-of-19) from beyond the arc. The Owls were also outrebounded, 36-to-34.
Rice begins 2018 at home next Thursday, January 4, when it hosts Old Dominion. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and the game will be livestreamed at CUSA.tv.