Okay its official, the UTEP women are a second half team.
Keitha Adams squad used a fierce, defensive led 25-4 second half run to put away Rice in another second half romp 72-57 to improve 23-5 overall, and 12-3 in C-USA play.
Rice came out with plenty of energy early in the first half, celebrating decorated senior Jessica Kuster who had one of the roughest nights of her career.
Still Rice controlled the offensive glass, and took a five point lead, 22-17 at the 9:07 mark after Jasmine Goodwine hounded an offensive board leading to a bucket, foul, and free throw.
UTEP kept attacking with Vitola down low, and tightened up on the boards the last eight minutes of the half.
A huge momentum shift that ended up going UTEP's way occurred with 47.4 seconds left before halftime.
Cameasha Turner drove the baseline for a nice bucket, although was called for a charge. Replays showed Maya Adetula was clearly in the restricted area, prompting a review from the zebras. After further review the call was reversed leading to a three point play and a 28-26 lead for the Miners.
The Miners would finish their rally in the final six minutes of the first half, helped by an 11-5 run that gave UTEP a slim 30-29 edge at the break.
Using a page out Tim Floyd's play book to start the second half, Adams frustrated Kuster with a box and one, and swarming triangle and two, shutting down Rice's senior for just 7 points on 3/9 shooting on the afternoon.
That tough defense led to efficient Miner offense to pull UTEP ahead in their tremendous second half run.
Led by the trio of Kristine Vitola, Jenzel Nash, and Sparkle Taylor, and best of the season team defense, UTEP turned Tudor Field House in the Don Haskins Center East with that 25-4 run.
Vitola showed off her three-point range, netting home a trey to give UTEP its largest lead at that point, 56-41 with ten minutes left.
The run would continue when Nash found Stacie Telles open for a three that the lefty nailed, then Nash followed up her own miss for a easy bucket as the Miners were rolling 64-43 at the under eight minute media timeout.
Three Miners scored in double figures led by Vitola who scored 18 points on 8/11 shooting, adding 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Nash had a solid second half scoring 15 points on the afternoon while grabbing 5 rebounds.
Freshman Sparkle Taylor continues her great late season surge with 14 points, she spearheaded the second half surge with some key drives in the lane for buckets, also adding 2 steals to the cause.
Rice was unable to get anything going once Kuster was muted, shooting 35.4 percent from the field, and 3/15 from behind the three point line.
Christal Porter led all scorers, and rebounders with 21 points, and 15 rebounds for the Owls.
UTEP forced 15 Rice turnovers, and did well taking care of the ball themselves only committing 9 turnovers while shooting 6 out of 18 from long range.
Stacie Telles was 2/3 from deep adding in 8 points, the Miners bench out scored Rice's bench 35-13 for win number 23 on the season.
The Miners finish the regular season next Wednesday in Boca Raton, Florida against Florida Atlantic.
With the win UTEP locks up a spot within the top four seeds for the Conference-USA Tournament, also giving Coach Adams her 229th win at UTEP.
Another solid road win for the Miners, sixth of the season so far, one more on Wednesday, and the March dreams will start becoming realities.