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Miners lose to Rice in double overtime

Priscilla Gomez
Sophomore guard Evan Gilyard scored 16 points.

After having a 17 point lead at the end of the first half UTEP lost in double overtime against the Rice Owls in the opening game of Conference USA “Group Play,” 85-81, Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP is now 8-18, 3-12 in C-USA while Rice improved to 11-17, 6-9 in C-USA.

“It’s the same strategy you come out to start the game, you got to come out and play, you have to sit down and guard, not no magic formula on how you do it,” said first-year head coach Rodney Terry. “You do with your defense, you sit down and you guard, you play hard on that end of the floor and then we come down and on the other end and we execute what we’re trying to do on offense. You can’t forget what got you the lead and our young group they battled through that all your long but there’s no magic formula.”

UTEP had four players score in double-digits, freshman guard Jordan Lathon notched his second career double-double with a career-high in points and rebounds. Lathon had 32 points and 18 rebounds, 17 alone were defensive rebounds. Lathon’s 32 points were the most by a UTEP freshman since Lee Moore’s in 2016. The freshman’s all-around game proved to be huge in the absence of freshman forward Efe Odigie, who missed the game with an ankle injury.

Senior forward Paul Thomas added 13 points, while freshman guard Nigel Hawkins and sophomore guard Evan Gilyard scored 16 points each.

UTEP came out aggressive and looked to set the tone early in the first half against the Rice Owls. UTEP opened up the game by scoring the first seven points before Rice made their first field goal of the evening at the 16:04 mark.

UTEP would go on two different scoring runs that would give them a double-digit lead; the first coming right before the midway point of the first half, when UTEP went on a 6-0 run to give them a 16-9 lead. The second would be a 12-1 run by the Miners to give them a 17 point lead heading into the first half. Rice would shoot 1-of-7 from the field during the run.

“It got away from was on the defensive end of the floor,” Terry said. “We were able to establish a lead and control the tempo of the game in the first half. A lot of that was predicated on our defense and we probably played as good as defensive half that we’ve played over the last five-six ball games in the first half.

“We had come out with that same tenacity and same energy and activity that we need to have on the defensive end to start the half and obviously throughout the better part of the second half.”

Freshman guard Jordan Lathon came out and nailed his first seven field goal attempts before missing his first one, Lathon led all Miners with 18 first-half points. UTEP shot 50 percent from the field compared to Owl’s 24 percent from the field.

In the second half, Rice would chip into the Miners lead by going on an 18-4 run as they took the lead over the Miners by one point. Thomas would score a 3-pointer to give the Miners a two-point lead. UTEP had the lead till Rice took the lead back by one late in the second half. Junior forward Ountae Campbell stole the ball and called timeout with 12 seconds left on the clock to give the Miners an opportunity to win the game. Lathon had the ball as the time was running down drove down the lane and got fouled. The freshman nailed 1-of-2 from the line tying the game up at 63. Rice rebounded Lathon’s second attempt as it hit the rim, Rice would go for the win with eight seconds left after a failed alley-oop play. Rice would inbound the ball with one second left as they missed the game-winning shot attempt.

“I feel really bad for him he wasn’t able to make that free throw to close the game out,” Terry said about Lathon missing the game-winning free throw. “He had a phenomenal night, he played like a big-time player tonight.”

UTEP had a four-point lead in the first overtime. Lathon kept the Miners ahead before he fouled out of the game giving the Miners a five-point lead. Rice would retake the lead going on an 8-0 run. Thomas would nail a 3 to tie the game up at 75. Rice would have their second opportunity of the night to win the game as time expired but missed the game-winning attempt at the end of the first overtime.

In the second overtime, the Miners just ran out of gas. Rice shot 3-for-3 from the field while UTEP hit a scoring drought of 4:25, UTEP would shoot 2-of-9 from the field and 1-for-5 from deep, while Rice shot 75 percent from the field and was 1-for-1 from behind the arc. UTEP would find new life when Hawkins would bring the game within two after nailing the Miner’s one 3-point attempt. UTEP closed out the second overtime shooting 1-of-8 from the field.  

“I’m not a big excuse guy, we don’t make excuses,” Terry said. “Again this time of year whether we have a short bench or a full locker room of guys that we can play you got to keep competing.”

UTEP and Rice shot 39 percent from the field for the game. Rice outrebounded the Miners by two, 49-47. The score was tied a total of five times while the lead was exchanged nine times.

UTEP suffered a loss to the team Friday in practice when freshman forward Efe Odigie was injured in practice. Odigie led C-USA in rebounds with 10.1 per game and has 11 double-doubles in his freshman campaign, the most ever since Vince Hunter’s 13 double-doubles in 2014-15. The freshman’s 252 rebounds are the second most ever by a UTEP freshman, Arnett Moultrie grabbed 302 in 37 games in 2008-09.

Coach Terry said there’s a possibility that Odigie can play before the season ends, it just depends on him.

“That’s day to day we’ll see how it goes, we played without him tonight and well have to play without him again next weekend and we will. You know if he’s ready to play then well will get him back in there and get him going a little bit.”

Terry went on to say that the injury status of Odigie will depend on him and how he rehabs his ankle injury.

“There’s a chance, a lot is going to depend on him and how hard he works to get himself back in and how bad he wants to get back in,” Terry said. “Also, you know every guy is different in terms of how they handle their injuries but there’s an opportunity and a window for him to get back on the floor.”

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Daniel Mendez, Staff reporter
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Miners lose to Rice in double overtime