HOUSTON, Texas - The UTEP women's team will have less than 24 hours to try and rebound after suffering their first loss in conference play.
Despite a late comeback attempt, the Miners lost to the Rice Owls, 74-68.
The opening game of the weekend series was a competitive battle that featured nine lead changes and six ties over the course of four quarters.
Freshman Elina Arike led the Miners in scoring with a season-high 15 points and eight rebounds, while Destiny Thurman posted 14 points on the day. Isis Lopes littered the scoresheet with a balanced effort after recording 6 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Tia Bradshaw, Avery Crouse and Katia Gallegos each had nine points apiece in the game.
UTEP began the day with a back-and-forth effort in the first quarter as the Miners went on a 7-0 scoring run for a 5-point lead, the team’s largest of the game, with 3:23 left in the first.
Rice ended the first period up, 20-18, after closing out the opening quarter shooting over 63 percent from the field (7-11).
Rice’s hot shooting continued throughout the game with the Owls finishing the contest shooting 50 percent (26-52), including a 57.1 percentage at halftime to lead, 41-34, over the Miners at the break.
UTEP shot 40 percent (28-70) in the loss.
The Miners struggled in the third, shooting just 5-of-18 (27.8 pct.), including 2-of-11 from behind the arc to allow Rice to take a 15-point lead, the Owl’s largest lead of the game, in the later stages of the third quarter.
UTEP came out in the fourth with renewed energy, outscoring Rice 21-15 in the quarter and holding the Owls to their lowest shooting percentage of the game (30 pct.), but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit, resulting in the close defeat in the first game of the weekend.
Rice finished the game with four players scoring in double figures, led by Lauren Schwartz with 16 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds.
Nancy Mulkey followed with 15 points, three assists, five rebounds and six blocks in the contest.
UTEP falls to 5-3 overall, 2-1 in C-USA, while Rice improves to 7-1 overall, 3-0 in C-USA.
UTEP will stay in Houston to wrap up the weekend against Rice on Saturday.
Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. MT.