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Rice at UTEP: Game Preview/Open Thread

One final go around in the Don for UTEP's three seniors, against the most improved C-USA team from a year ago.

Alex Nicolas (SB Nation)

UTEP Miners

Current Record: 20-9, 12-5 C-USA

Projected Starters:

C.J. Cooper, Sr, G, 8.2 ppg, 3.0 apg

Omega Harris, Fr, G, 6.4 ppg, 25 made three pointers

Julian Washburn, Sr, G, 9.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Vince Hunter, So, F, 15.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg

Cedrick Lang, Sr, F, 10.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg

Team Stats

Points Per Game 69.5
Opponents 63.2
FG% .469
Opponents% .415
3-point% .359
Opponents% .329
Free Throw% .655
Rebounds Per Game 34.7
Rebounding Margin +1.1
Assists Per Game 13.9
Steals Per Game


It's about how you respond sometimes in sports, and UTEP responded from last weekend's shortcomings with a pissed off, chip on the shoulder effort and performance against undermanned North Texas.

UTEP shot just under 60 percent Thursday night, thanks to the best offensive fluidity of the season.

The ball never stopped moving, and Vince Hunter came through in an MVP like manner with a huge game on both ends of the floor.

As most teams do, UTEP goes only as far as their guard play goes, and this was the second biggest response behind VH's. UTEP's guards combined for 42 points, 10 assists, accounting for eight makes from three.

Earvin Morris sparked plugged another first half run, and C.J. Cooper would not allow a second half slide, adding 12 important points in the second half.

While the score was nice to see, more importantly leadership, confidence, and a sense of urgency were on full display Thursday night.

More encouraging was the way Matt Willms and Hooper Vint provided key defensive minutes while Vince Hunter, and Cedrick Lang were able to get a nice stretch of rest in the first half.

This added dimension down on the blocks will only make UTEP a more difficult defensive team to crack.

But against Rice, perimeter defense will be tested once again.

UTEP was struggling in guarding the three point line in the last meeting, allowing 12 Rice three pointers, eight of which came in the second half.

Since then, UTEP has only allowed two teams to make more than five three pointers in a game, and LA Tech has been the the only team to eclipse the 40 percent mark on more than 11 attempts in the same stretch.

Long rebounds and staying patient with Rice's offensive actions that open up their shooters will be key.

For UTEP's three seniors, this will be their last run in the Don, expect all three to do what they were doing Thursday; vocally leading the team, and coming up with daggers and defensive stops to put North Texas away.

Rice Owls

Current Record: 11-18, 8-9 C-USA

Projected Starters:

Max Guecry, 5'9, So, G, 9.8 ppg, 4.5 apg

Marcus Jackson, 6'3, So, G, 14.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg

Bishop Mency, 6'5, Fr, G, 7.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Seth Gearhart, 6'7, Sr, G, 15.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg

Andrew Drone, 6'10, So, C, 6.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg,

Team Stats
Points Per Game 63.5
Opponents 66.0
FG% .417
Opponents% .443
3-point% .359
Opponents% .362
Free Throw% .731
Rebounds Per Game 31.2
Rebounding Margin -2.2
Assists Per Game 12.7
Steals Per Game


Seth Gearhart, and Marcus Jackson combined for 48 points, while Max Guercy added 12 points, and 10 assists as Rice busted out the brooms inside UTSA's rec center Thursday night.

49 percent of Rice's shot attempts this season have came from behind the three point line, and the Owls canned 12 of their 30 attempts against the Runners on Thursday.

Seth Gearhart is Rice's lone possible all-conference selection; the 6'7 forward has drilled a three pointer in all but two games this season, and was 5/6 against UTSA.

Bishop Mency's performance against Charlotte could be enough for All C-USA freshman honors. Mency connected on five three pointers, adding 20 points, and helped cut a 11 point deficit to make things interesting in the final minute of that loss.

The Owls have set a program record for made three pointers on the season, and they also set a program mark for the most C-USA wins in a season with their eight wins this year.

Sophomore guard Marcus Jackson led the Owls in scoring in their first six C-USA games this season, and is averaging 15.3 points per game during conference play.

Gearhart, Jackson, and Bishop all have over 50 makes from three on the year, and Rice boasts three of top five free throw shooters in the conference.

Cedrick Lang did a number on Rice's 6'10 big man Andrew Drone in the last match up.

Since then, Drone has came into this own, but Rice has had trouble scoring in the paint against bigger teams during C-USA play, and is -2.2 on the boards this season.

Guercy has seen his scoring production dip this season with Rice's added depth, but still has 131 assists, and always does a good job of protecting the rock.

A season of resurgence to a point for Rice with key wins no one expected, the Owls have proven they are not to be taken lightly by ANYONE with the way they can light up nets from deep.

UTEP three keys to avoid disaster in the Don

Keep the pissed off play going

Watching a pissed off team is fun, but more importantly, that pissed off element mixed with UTEP's talent is a scary thing not only for Rice, but for the entire C-USA Tournament field.

Defensive rebounding

Leaving Rice with only one look from three per possession is the biggest key in this one. If the Owls are able to scramble for a second look they will keep themselves in it. But if the Miners close out every miss with a board, Rice will be lucky to crack 50 points.

Overdose on the post touches

If I'm CTF, I'm pounding the paint over and over and over and over again, not only tonight, but until the C-USA tourney trophy is flying back to El Paso. If its not there re-post, and then do it again if its not there, then repeat. UTEP showed that urgency early on against North Texas which opened the offensive flood gates.

A-ROD's opening line: UTEP -17

Game Information
Who? Rice Owls at UTEP Miners
Date/Time Saturday, March 7th, 2:05 p.m. Mountain Time
Location Don Haskins Center, El Paso, Texas


Play-by-Play Available on the TuneIn App, or 92.3 FM In El Paso In English, Spanish 1650 AM In El Paso Also available on the TuneIn App.

Series Record UTEP leads 18-11