HOUSTON - Rice junior guard Maya Hawkins poured in a game-high 16 points but it was not enough to prevent the UTEP Miners from defeating the Owls, 60-54, in the Conference USA opener Friday afternoon at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Owls (1-11, 0-1) managed to limit UTEP (10-1, 1-0) to just 35 percent shooting from the floor but the Miners used a 24-17 fourth quarter advantage to pull away from Rice. Hawkins led all players with the 16 points, 11 of which came in the third quarter alone. Rice sophomore guard Wendy Knight also scored in double-figures (11 points) for the second time this season.
UTEP had three players score in double-figures, including a team-best 15 points from guard Starr Breedlove. The Miners edged out the Owls in points off turnovers (16-6), second chance points (18-9) and bench scoring (16-7).
"We took some strides forward today," Rice head coach Tina Langley said. "Obviously we still need to value the ball more and protect it when the game gets physical. We've got to continue to get better at building leads and just keep fighting."
Rice shot just 18 percent (3-of-16) from the field in the opening period but senior Alyssa Lang kept the Owls afloat by making 5-of-6 attempts from the free throw line. Trailing just 12-11 entering the second quarter, the Owls managed to hang close (26-21) entering halftime despite making only three field goals in the second quarter.
In the third quarter the Owls outscored UTEP, 16-10, behind the 11 points from Hawkins and took a 37-36 lead going into the fourth after Hawkins closed out the period by connecting on one of her two made three-pointers on the afternoon.
However, UTEP outscored Rice 8-3 to start the fourth quarter and reclaim a 44-40 advantage with 5:42 remaining. Knight kept the Owls close with a made three-pointer at the 2:22 mark to pull Rice to within 49-45 but UTEP didn't allow the deficit to get any closer. Miners' forward Jenzel Nash scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter alone and Breedlove chipped in another seven points.
The Owls five-game home stand continues on Sunday when they host UTSA (4-7, 0-1) at 2 p.m. at Tudor Fieldhouse.