Bryson Williams scored a game-high 17 points and Souley Boum scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half, but LA Tech (12-4, 3-1 Conference USA) used a 10-0 run down the stretch to hand UTEP (10-7, 1-3 C-USA) its first home loss, 64-61, on Saturday night in the Haskins Center.
“It was a really good game tonight, but obviously we don’t like the outcome of the game – being on the wrong side of it,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “It was another close ball game where we have to execute on both ends of the floor. We have to be able to get stops and we have to be able to come down and execute on the other end as well.”
The Miners rallied after being down 10 points early in the second half. Jordan Lathon made a pair of free throws to put the Miners up 61-54 with 3:19 left in the game, bringing crowd of 5,731 to its feet and into an uproar.
Derric Jean started the Bulldogs’ run on a driving layup. Following a missed Boum three-point attempt, Mubarak Muhammed made the count 61-58 on another LA Tech layup.
Cobe Williams connected on a pair of three throws with 1:38 left in the game, getting the Bulldogs within a point (61-60). Jean connected on another layup for the go-ahead basket (62-61) after a turnover by Eric Vila with 24 seconds remaining. Lathon tallied another UTEP crucial turnover with 15 seconds remaining and Amorie Archibald hit both his free throws after being fouled in the closing seconds.
UTEP had a chance to tie the contest as Williams missed a three-point attempt. Vila grabbed the offensive board for another chance to tie, but turned the ball over again after Williams snagged the ball to seal the victory.
LA Tech controlled the first half, shooting 43.3 percent to UTEP’s 36.4. The Bulldogs took a 34-28 lead into the locker and built that lead to 10 points (38-28) at the 19:13 mark in the second period.
“I thought in the first half, we gave away the ball too much,” Terry said. “We had 11 turnovers at the half and they were scoring and converting off our turnovers. It’s really hard to defend that. We have to do a better job at protecting the ball, continuing the keep working and keep plugging away.”
Despite the double-digit deficit, the Miners kept fighting on their home floor as Daryl Edwards gave some spark to the offense after nailing a three-pointer. Though DaQuan Bracey answered with a jumper to make it a nine-point game (40-31), Vila connected on his second three of the game, bringing the Miners within six points (40-34).
Vila’s trey was big as it started a 17-1 run. Edwards hit another three and Williams followed with a bucket in the paint, making the score 40-39.
“That run was all predicated on how hard we guarding and we were getting stops,” Terry said. “Then we were able to get out and play in transition.”
Boum gave the Miners a 42-41 lead on a three-point bucket, while Williams went on to score the next five points that included an and-1 play. Boum capped the run with a made free throw as the Miners took a 48-41 lead at the 10:59 mark.
After Williams was called for stepping out of bounds on baseline, a technical was called on Terry and LA Tech went on a 6-0 run, making the score 48-47. The two squads went back-and-forth as the two were tied 50-50 with 7:17 remaining. UTEP used an 11-4 to take the seven-point advantage before the Bulldogs locked down and shutdown the Miners’ offense the rest of the way.
Williams added five rebounds, a UTEP career-high three blocked shots and two steals, while Lathon led the team with nine rebounds. Edwards chipped in with nine points and led the team with three assists. Vila added six points on a pair of treys and grabbed seven boards.
Archibald led La Tech with 14 points, while Jean scored 13 and Bracey 12 points. Muhammed recorded 13 rebounds and eight points.
The Bulldogs took advantage of 17 Miners’ miscues that led to 24 points off turnovers.
UTEP continued its clutch free-throw shooting, making 20-of-23 (87 percent) on the night.
Up next, UTEP will host UTSA (8-9, 2-1 C-USA) on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center. The contest will be streamed on ESPN+, while fans can listen to the action on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen calling the action.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald Post