2007 C-USA Basketball Tournament Recap: #7 Rice 77 - #10 UTEP 74
Almond Leads Owls' Comeback Win Over Miners; Rice advances to face UCF
Rice used a strong performance by its star Morris Almond to garner a 77-74 come from behind win in the first game of the Conference USA Tournament on Wednesday afternoon in Memphis. Almond knocked down a clutch three to give the Owls the lead deep into second half and advance them to Thursday’s quarterfinals where they will face second seeded UCF. The Owls, who are 0-2 against the Golden Knights this season, are now 15-15 on the season.
Stefon Jackson, who finished the day with 17 points, put UTEP on the board first with a jump shot one minute into the contest. Conference USA Player of The Year Morris Almond answered with five quick points to give his team a 5-2 lead. He scored the Owls first seven points and would finish the game with 31.
UTEP went on to score nine unanswered points over the next two minutes of action to take an 11-5 lead.
The Miners would hold the lead until they went cold with just under twelve minutes remaining in the first half. Rice took advantage of the opportunity by going on a 12-2 run to put the Owls up by five with just over seven minutes to go. UTEP’s Malik Alvin knocked down a three to end the Owls run. UTEP connected on six 3-pointers (43 percent from behind the arc) in the first half –led by two a piece from Stefon Jackson and Kevin Henderson—to lead the Miners to a two point lead at the break 39-37.
Morris Almond was stellar in the first stanza, finishing with 12 points on a 5-of-10 performance from the floor. Almond also grabbed four rebounds.
Stefon Jackson led the Miners in scoring at the half with 12 points and he would finish the game with 17.
As the second half began, Rice regained the lead after Rodney Foster nailed a three for his only points of the contest. Almond and Jackson stole the show in the first half and they were able to to do so again after the break.
Rice avoided foul trouble in the first half, as they were only whistled for five fouls. However, that was not the case in the second half as they had four fouls just four minutes into the half while putting UTEP’s Marvin Kilgore on the line to knock down two free ones and give the Miners a five-point lead.
Stefon Jackson extended the Miners lead to seven with a jumper the next time down the court, but this time Almond was there to answer Jackson with a bucket to cut the lead right back to five.
Maurice Thomas’ free throw pushed the Miners’ lead to 11 points.
Jackson picked up his third and fourth fouls within a minute and was quickly removed by UTEP head coach Tony Barbee. Rice would take advantage of Barbee’s decision, cutting the lead back down to a manageable four with just eight minutes remaining in the contest.
After the teams exchanged baskets for the next couple of minutes, Rice was not able to cut into the UTEP lead until Lorenzo Williams connected a three to trim the deficit to only two with just under four minutes to go. After a UTEP turnover, Rice was able to regain the lead with a three from Morris Almond and the Owls took a 70-69 advantage.
Stefon Jackson fouled out on an offensive foul with a 1:12 in the contest. After the teams each made free throws, the Owls had themselves a two-point lead and the ball with a minute to go.
Charles Belton picked the right time to make his only bucket of the game, as he made a jump shot to put the Owls up four.
UTEP guard Marvin Kilgore was there to answer with a quick lay-up that cut the lead to two.
Belton was fouled and made one of two from the charity stripe to put the Owls up by three with 13 ticks left on the clock.
UTEP shot up two prayers in the last seven seconds, but neither were answered. Rice would hold on to pickup the victory and collect a ticket to Thursday’s quarterfinals.