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Kayla Thornton’s potential game-tying three-pointer from the right wing was off the mark as time expired, and Rice escaped with a 62-59 victory against UTEP at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
Chrishauna Parker (17 points, 14 rebounds) and Anete Steinberga (14 points, 11 boards) each posted double-doubles for the Miners (19-8, 7-7 C-USA), who battled back from 11 down (46-35, 10:34 to play) only to have the Owls (13-14, 5-9 C-USA) make just enough plays to hold on.
UTEP, which connected on 40.0 percent (22-of-55) of its shots, also was on the wrong side of some bad breaks. The most notable one occurred with 1:23 left, with Rice leading by two (59-57).
Thornton picked the pocket of Jessica Kuster but then lost her balance in the scramble and traveled. The Owls took advantage of the fresh shot clock with a runner in the lane dropping for Nakachi Maduka, who paced them with 19 points.
Steinberga immediately answered to get the Miners within two (61-59) with 58 seconds to play. Rice misfired on a jumper but secured an offensive rebound. UTEP had no choice but to foul. The Owls’ Megan Shafer split a pair of free throws, affording the Miners a chance at overtime.
Steinberga got the rebound and sent the ball up court where Thornton had a clean look, but she couldn’t get it to go.
“We fought and competed but just came up a little short,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Rice had 17 second-chance points and did a good job of executing down the stretch. When we win dominate the boards, we win games.”
Rice was held to 37.7 percent (23-of-61) from the floor, hit just 10-of-17 free throws while also committing 15 turnovers that led to 14 points for the Orange and Blue, but it overcame that through other areas.
While UTEP won the rebounding battle (38-37), the Owls had the upper hand on second-chance points (17-8). The Miners also committed 20 turnovers, which Rice converted into 18 points.
Kelli Willingham tied her season high with four three pointers to reach double figures (12 points) while Thornton fell just shy of a double-double with nine points and eight boards. The junior also recorded five of the Miners’ 10 steals in the contest. Freshman Irene Gari rounded out the scoring for UTEP with seven points in making a successful return to the starting lineup after being hindered with an ankle injury the past two tilts.
UTEP will look to regain its winning ways when it plays at SMU at 1 p.m. MST Sunday. The game will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 1150 AM.
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