Rice Deals UTEP Costly Loss in Home Finale, 68-61
Feb. 29, 2012
Connor Frizzelle scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, leading Rice to a 68-61 win over UTEP on Wednesday for its first victory in El Paso since 2003.
The Owls (17-13, 8-7 C-USA) completed the season sweep of the Miners, making 19-of-22 free throws over the final 20 minutes on their way to erasing a 29-27 halftime deficit.
UTEP (14-15, 7-8 C-USA) will be seeded eighth in next week's Conference USA Tournament at Memphis. The Miners will take on ninth seed Houston in the opening round on Wednesday, then, with a win, would face the top seed -- either Memphis or Southern Miss -- in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.
With a win on Wednesday, the Miners would have been seeded no lower than seventh and would have avoided a second-day matchup against the top team in the league.
Rice took its first lead (32-31) on two free throws by Jarelle Reischel with 14:23 remaining. After the Miners went up 39-38 on a jumper by Gabe McCulley with 10:30 to play, the Owls scored 11 of the game's next 14 points to build a seven-point cushion (49-42) with 6:06 left.
UTEP was down 50-45 after Julian Washburn hit a jumper with 5:12 to go. The Miners had a chance to draw closer when Jacques Streeter stole the ball and drove to the basket, but he was called for traveling. UTEP Coach Tim Floyd argued that Streeter was fouled on the play and was assessed two technical fouls before being ejected from the game.
Frizzelle took advantage by making four free throws, pushing Rice's lead to 54-45 with 4:33 remaining. Omar Oraby's layup extended the Owls' lead to 56-45 with 4:10 to go.
The Miners nearly pulled off another amazing late-game rally, cutting the deficit to two points (58-56) on a layup by John Bohannon with 1:05 left. But Rice scored the next six points, four on free throws, and wasn't seriously threatened thereafter.
Not happy with their performance in a 63-45 loss at UCF on Saturday, coach Floyd benched three of his regular starters and employed a makeshift lineup at tip-off that included walk-ons Tyler Tafoya and Mauricio Cheda. The unit more than held its own, taking a 9-8 lead in the first four minutes before the Miners went to their bench.
McCulley, in his final home appearance, led the Miners with 17 points. Bohannon chipped in with 13 points and nine rebounds and Washburn scored 13 points.
UTEP had a horrific second half, shooting 30 percent (9-for-30) from the field and missing numerous point-blank opportunities.
Rice had four players in double figure scoring -- Frizzelle, Arsalan Kazemi (12 points/11 rebounds), Reischel (10 points) and Ahmad Ibrahim (10 points). The Owls finished 22-for-27 from the line and became only the second team to outrebound UTEP in eight C-USA home games (38-34).
The Miners will close out the regular season slate at SMU on Saturday at 1 p.m. MT before heading to Memphis on Monday.