March 9, 2017
By: Tim Andrzejewski
| Box Score
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Rice shot a season-low 33.9% from the field as it fell, 86-79, to UTEP in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament, Thursday afternoon from Legacy Arena.
Connor Cashaw led the Owls with 17 points, seven rebounds and a career-high six assists. Marcus Evans had a team-high 21 points and Marcus Jackson and Marquez Letcher-Ellis added 11 points apiece.
"It was a tough day for us," said Rice head coach Mike Rhoades. "All the credit goes to UTEP and Coach (Tim) Floyd. They took it to us that first 20 minutes and we were scraping to get back into it the rest of the way. We let our lack of offense affect our defense. To give up 49 points, being down 20 is a lot. We fought like crazy in the second half. Our guys were excited to see what we could do in this tournament but it just wasn't our day."
UTEP came out of the gate fast, scoring 11 of the first 12 points. Letcher-Ellis got Rice's first field goal with a three, 3:32 into the game. Letcher-Ellis then hit two more three's as he scored the Owls' first 10 points of the game. Andrew Drone then hit a jumper to cut the deficit to 16-12. However, UTEP went on an 11-2 run to push its lead to 27-14 midway through the first half.
Drone and Cashaw went a combined three-of-four from the line and Jackson hit a three. After Dominic Artis made one-of-two free throws, Cashaw made a driving layup. Paul Thomas made one-of-two free throws and Egor Koulechov made two to cut the deficit to 29-24 with 6:25 to play. However, Rice made just one of its final 10 shots as the Miners closed the half on a 20-5 run to head into halftime leading 49-29.
Koulechov and Jackson opened the second half with a pair of three-pointers but UTEP answered with five straight points. The teams then traded baskets for the next six minutes. With UTEP leading 63-45, Rice scored eight of the next 12 points to cut the deficit to 65-53 with 7:30 to play.
After two Miner free throws, Chad Lott and Evans made of four from the line. Artis converted a three-point play, but Evans drained a three, was fouled after the play, and made one-of-two free throws. Trey Touchet made a pair from the line before Evans made another three to cut the lead to 72-63 with 4:33 to play. However, Rice would get no closer, as UTEP made 10-of-13 free throws the rest of the way to seal the game.
Rice was just 21-of-62 from the field, including 10-of-28 (35.7%) from three and 24-of-36 (66.7%) from the free throw line. UTEP connected on 56.0% (28-of-50) and 46.7% (7-of-15) from three. The Owls were outscored in the paint, 38-to-14, and outrebounded, 41-to-33.