Rice (16-13) at Texas-El Paso (14-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, February 29th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Don Haskins Center (12,222) -- El Paso, Texas. Television: None. Home Record: Rice 11-5, Texas-El Paso 11-4. Away Record: Rice 5-6, Texas-El Paso 1-9. Neutral Record: Rice 0-2, Texas-El Paso 2-1. Conference Record: Rice 7-7, Texas-El Paso 7-7. Series Record: Texas-El Paso leads, 14-10.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Conference USA squads square off Wednesday at the Don Haskins Center jockeying for postseason position as Texas-El Paso plays host to the Rice Owls.
Texas-El Paso had its four-game win streak snapped Saturday at UCF, failing to keep pace down the stretch as the Knights pulled away for a 63-45 win. John Bohannon was the lone Miner in double figures with 16 points off the bench as the visitors fell behind in the second half after a 7-0 Knights run and never recovered. UTEP got to the free-throw line for just six attempts, making two, and was 3-for-11 three-point shooting. UCF outrebounded the Miners, 37-27, and committed just three turnovers to UTEP's 14. The Miners slipped to 7-7 in C-USA action with the result.
Rice suffered a heart-breaking 58-56 loss at Southern Miss Saturday as Jonathan Mills dropped in a pair of foul shots with 0.6 seconds remaining to put the Golden Eagles in front. Rice did well to erase an eight-point deficit at halftime, shooting 52.2 percent from the floor in the second half. Dylan Ennis paced the effort with 18 points and 10 rebounds, tying the game at 56- all with a layup. Arsalan Kazemi registered 17 points and nine boards, but committed the foul that sent Mills to the line just before the final buzzer. Southern Miss' 43-31 advantage on the boards included 18 offensive rebounds in sending the Owls to their second loss in three games to settle at 7-7 in league play.
Rice got by UTEP 77-75 in Houston February 1 to snap a three-game skid in the series. The Miners have still captured 10 of the last 13 overall meetings and lead the all-time set by a 14-10 count. The Owls have dropped six straight contests in El Paso with their last road victory over UTEP coming way back in 2003.
The Miners spread the ball around nicely with four players averaging better than 11.0 points per game. Michael Perez is at the head of that charge, averaging 11.7 points, while leading the team with 39 three-pointers on 39.4 percent shooting. Bohannon contributes a healthy 11.4 ppg, paces the club in rebounding with 7.3 per game and stands second in C-USA in field-goal percentage (60.8 percent). Gabriel McCulley and Julian Washburn add 11.3 and 11.1 ppg to the mix, respectively. UTEP is among C-USA's best shooting teams, dropping in 47.0 percent of its field goals to rank second in the league with three players shooting better than 50.0 percent from the field in McCulley (52.6 percent) and Cedrick Lang (61.4 percent) alongside Bohannon. The Miners average 64.2 ppg and gives up 63.1 per contest on 42.6 percent shooting. Despite the efforts of the 6-10 Bohannon, Texas-El Paso ranks second-to-last in C-USA in rebounding with just 31.1 per game.
The Owls are led by the junior Kazemi, who averages 12.3 ppg and stands second in the conference in rebounding with 10.4 per contest. His 59.3 shooting percentage stands third in conference play. Tamir Jackson's 10.9 ppg serves as the only other double-digit scoring threat. Connor Frizzelle follows with a 9.5-point average while the freshman Ennis provides 8.6 ppg, 4.3 boards and ranks among the league leaders with 3.9 assists per contest. Overall, the Owls slot in as an above average scoring team at 69.6 ppg and the defense normally does well to hold its own at 65.8 ppg allowed on only 41.0 percent shooting. Rice shoots 44.3 percent from the field and holds down a respectable 36.1-34.9 advantage on the glass.
UTEP had been on a roll prior to its letdown against UCF, but returns home to the Haskins Center where it owns a superior 11-4 record. Rice has shown it can get the job done on the road (5-6) and should be able to give the Miners a run for their money.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 65, Texas-El Paso 64
02/29 10:37:22 ET