Both Rice basketball teams were in action against UTEP on Saturday. Here’s a brief rundown of how the men and women faired and what’s next for both.
Rice basketball fended off an early UTEP run then made a thriller at the buzzer to notch their first conference home win of the season.
After failing to hold sizable leads in previous games, Rice basketball was handed a very different game script on Saturday against UTEP. The game began with a modest back and forth before a 13-3 UTEP run late in the first half put Rice into a perilous position. Quincy Olivari quickly keyed an 11-2 Rice spurt to return the game back to near level in the waning minutes of the first half.
Already survivors of an early scare, Rice entered the second half motivated. Olivari and Travis Evee strung together a trio of three-pointers and a few more buckets, a 13-0 run, which put Rice back in front for the first time since the 11:25 mark in the first half.
It wouldn’t be easy, though. UTEP took the lead on a free throw with six seconds to play. Then Evee took the ball down the court and put one up at the buzzer, watching it fall through the net for the game-winner.
Final Box | Rice 83 – UTEP 82
FINAL | @RiceMBB 83 – UTEP 82
Owls win at the buzzer! pic.twitter.com/hhSeD8wc8b
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 14, 2023
Key takeaway | In the hunt
Entering Saturday, eight of the 11 teams in Conference USA were within one game of .500 in league play, with most hovering somewhere between 2-3 and 3-3. If Rice basketball had hopes of contending for an upper-half finish in the conference they needed to avoid falling too far in the race early on in the season. They did that this weekend, earning an important win to move back to .500 in league play.
The Owls were one of only two teams in the conference without a home win in league play prior to this important victory. Head coach Scott Pera is quick to preach the significance of taking care of home court, and they achieved that today.
Up Next: at UTSA – Monday, Jan. 16 at 7:00 p.m.
Rice women’s basketball was able to build a lead and maintain it, taking down UTEP on the road for their second conference win.
On New Year’s Eve, Rice women’s basketball beat UTEP to stop a losing skid. On Saturday, they did it again, taking down the Miners for the second time this season. The game was tight early, with the Owls holding small leads in the first and second quarters with both teams shooting well early on. Things began to shift in the third quarter when the Rice defensive effort was cranked up to another level.
UTEP was held to 7.1 percent shooting in the third frame, making just one shot from the field. That stingy defense, combined with a 50 percent shooting mark of their own from the floor, helped Rice open up an 18-point advantage which proved too big for the Miners to climb out of, even with a stronger fourth quarter.
“I felt we imposed our will for 40 minutes. We really executed the defensive gameplan and we then we had a really balanced attack on the offensive end,” head coach Lindsay Edmonds said. ” You saw a lot of effort and energy, but most importantly, I just liked our focus.”
Final Box | Rice 73 – UTEP 62
FINAL | @RiceWBB 73 – UTEP 62
Owls get back in the win column! pic.twitter.com/GXEOTxTsU8
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) January 14, 2023
Key takeaway | Confidence builder
With the loss, UTEP falls to 4-2 in conference play, undefeated in games against all other foes except for the Rice Owls. The win was important, if for no other reason that to soothe any anxieties associated with a prolonged losing streak. But more than that, it was a win against a very good conference foe.
UTEP is second in the conference standings right now and Rice has already beaten the Miners twice. Middle Tennessee (6-0) is playing exceptional basketball right now, but everyone else in the conference is on the Owls’ level — as things currently stand — and we’ve seen this team hang with great teams over the past year and a half.
Every team has tough stretches of its season for one reason or another. Notching a second win against this team proves that this Rice women’s basketball squad can be a real force if they’re clicking at the right time.
Up Next: vs UTSA – Monday, Jan. 16 at 7:00 p.m.
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