After not playing a game since December 19th, one would expect some offensive rust from the UTEP's women's basketball team, but rarely do you hear of defensive rust under Keitha Adams.
UTEP pressured, defended hard, out rebounded the Owls 44-35, and held Rice to 32.7 percent shooting from the floor, all while improving to 10-1 overall and notched their first C-USA win with a grind it out 60-54 win on the road.
Starr Breedlove provided 15 points, Jenzel Nash added 12 points, and Sparkle Taylor added 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting to help UTEP pick up their second road win on the season.
Rice would start 3-of-16 from the field, but UTEP would go on a three-minute scoring drought in the first quarter turning the opening quarter into a nip-and-tuck affair, setting the stage for a tough battle.
Although Lulu McKinney would get things going with a three pointer in the closing seconds of the first quarter to put UTEP in front 12-11 after the first ten minutes of action.
McKinney's triple started an 8-0 UTEP run capped off by a three-pointer from Starr Breedlove that gave UTEP a 17-11 lead at the 7:45 mark of the second quarter.
The Owls would answer with a five straight to pull within one, but the Miners would out score Rice 9-5 from that point to grab a slim 26-21 lead at halftime.
But the third quarter belonged to Rice.
Finishing the quarter on a 12-3 run, the Owls held UTEP scoreless in the final 2:25 of the quarter and took a 37-36 lead thanks to a three pointer from Maya Hawkins with nine seconds left in the quarter.
As its been the case for most of UTEP's opponents this year, the Miners full court pressure just proves to be too much for some.
Breedlove capped off a 6-0 UTEP run to open the fourth quarter with a steal and break away layup giving UTEP a 42-36 cushion 2:30 into the quarter thanks to the Miners amped up pressure.
Hawkins would later answer the run with another triple just after the six minute mark to make things close again with UTEP holding on to a 42-40 leading heading into the final five minutes of the game.
Jenzel Nash would give UTEP some breathing room with a three pointer off an offensive rebound, then a jumper on the next UTEP possession to give UTEP a 49-42 lead as things went under three minutes, but again, the Owls kept chipping away.
Wendy Knight would find the net from behind the three point line to cut the lead to 49-45. But a minute later, Starr Breedlove completed a three point play with a layup, and free throw that seemingly put the game away for UTEP in the final 1:30.
UTEP used a full court press for most of the fourth quarter and forced 11 turnovers in the second half, also grabbing 19 offensive rebounds that led to 18 second chance points which wore out Rice down the stretch.
Agata Dobrowolska led UTEP with seven rebounds, three coming on the offensive end, as the Miners shot just 35 percent from the field, but led for 36:53 to hold on for C-USA win number one.
It wasn't pretty, but this UTEP team just continues to find the winning answer on the defensive end despite a rough showing on the offensive end.
UTEP now travels up I-45 to face North Texas Sunday afternoon to complete the two game C-USA opening road trip.