UTEP falls to first-place Rice 69-61 in a tough conference matchup

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Carolina Alvarez

UTEP senior forward Jade Rochelle boxes out Rice junior center Nancy Mulkey Jan. 24 at the Don Haskins Center.

Isaiah Ramirez, Staff Reporter

In a game that was intense and featured two standout Conference-USA teams the UTEP Miners(11-6, 4-2) fell just short of snapping the Rice Owls (12-6, 7-0) now 26-game conference win streak falling 69 – 61 in front of 1,203 fans at the Don Haskins Center.  

The Miners came into the game tied for second in Conference-USA and with tons of momentum but just could not seem to hit shots from the field against the Owls going 23 69 for the game.  

We’re just not quite there yet, but we’re getting closer this young team is learning how to battle in Conference-USA,” head coach Kevin Baker said. 

At one point in the game the Miners found themselves down by only four points 52-48 with 7:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Owls were just too strong to overcome scoring nine straight points after the Miners cut the deficit to four. 

“We put ourselves in a position to win and some things didn’t go our way after we cut it to four, but I really enjoyed watching our team fight back,” Baker said. 

The Miners started off the game on a good note after a three pointer from sophomore forward Ariana Taylor and freshman guard Avery Crouse to put UTEP up 6-2. Rice would go on a 11-3 run to finish the quarter up 20-13. 

The shooting woes of the Miners were evident after the first two quarters with the team shooting 7-28 from the field in the first half.  

There were bright spots in the form of Taylor, Crouse, and senior forward Ariona Gill with each finishing with 11 points for the game.  

The formable one-two punch of senior guard Erica Ogwumike and junior center Nancy Mulkey provided a lot of will power for the Miners to dethrone with each player scoring in double figures with Ogwumike finishing with 21 points and Mulkey with 10. 

The 6-foot-9-inch Mulkey was a force in the point finishing with nine blocks and almost finishing with a triple double grabbing eight boards. 

UTEP did provide its solid defensive pressure throughout the night holding the Owls to 18 percent from the three-point line. The Miners came into the game having the fourth best three-point field goal defensive percentage in the nation. UTEP also forced 21 turnovers for the game. 

The Miners were just unable to pull away from the Owls and never got within six points after cutting the deficit to four points. 

UTEP will cap off its three-game homestand against North Texas (9-10, 3-4) at 1 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Don Haskins Center.  

The Mean Green are led by senior forward Anisha George’s 13 points per game and the team is coming off a 79-55 win over UTSA. 

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids and may be purchased by calling (915) 747-5234.