Photo by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
Jordan Lathon scored all 10 of his points in the second half, including the clutch go-ahead two-point basket with 27 seconds left as UTEP defeated rival New Mexico, 66-63, on Tuesday night in a loud and energetic Don Haskins Center.
“We had a great crowd, a great community that respects basketball, and understands basketball,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We’re going to continue to put a good product on the floor not only represents the community, but also the university the right way. We want the people to continue to get behind us and fill The Don.”
The Miners are 4-0 for the first time since the 2015-16 season after their stifling defense allowed less than 38 percent shooting for the fourth consecutive game. The Orange and Blue allowed 38.8 percent (19-49) from the field to a Lobos (4-1) team that entered the ball game averaging 93 points and 53.6 percent shooting from the field.
“I’m proud of my guys the way they hung tough,” Terry said. “That’s going to be a really good Lobo team over there. They’re extremely talented and Paul [Weir] does a good job. But we set the tone defensively and guarded hard.”
The contest was a back-and-forth dramatic affair. Zane Martin put UNM up 63-62 on a dunk from the baseline with 53 seconds remaining in the ball game. On the following possession, Lathon took the ball to his right off a Bryson Williams’s high screen from the left side of the court, dribbled past his defender and nailed the jumper from the foul line.
Lathon, after missing his lone shot in the first half, hit 4-of-6 in the second half. The sophomore point guard came up with big shots down the stretch. With the Miners down a point (55-54) after Carlton Bragg connected on a pair of free throws at the 5:00-minute mark, Lathon converted an and-1 after being fouled on a layup that gave his squad a two-point lead (57-55). Lathon then put the Miners up 62-58 on a three-point bucket with 2:49 left in the contest.
“[Jordan Lathon] is a floor general for us. He’s a guy we expect to quarterback our team and make other guys around him better,” Terry said. “The first half, he started the game the right way. Then he got caught up in the game in terms of being young and emotional a little bit. We had to sit him a bit, but he’s not afraid of the moment.”
Besides Lathon’s heroics, multiple Miners came up with huge performances, which included Daryl Edwards’s team-leading 18 points. The transfer graduate student from LSU scored 12 of his points in the second half. He also tied for the team lead with four assists.
“[Daryl Edwards] played great on both ends,” Terry said. “He had to guard really hard on [JaQuan] Lyle and he came down on the other end and we had to rely on him making some shots. He’s played in a lot of big game playing at LSU in the SEC. It’s nice to have some experience to lead our young guys.”
Edwards’s defense was apparent as Lyle shot 4-for-12 from the field, including 1-of-6 from the three-point line.
Souley Boum played all 40 minutes, scoring 10 points and matching Edwards’s assist total of four. Boum scored five of his points in the second period, including a three-point shot to open the second half with both teams tied at 30-30 coming out of the locker room.
Efe Odigie gave the Miners a big lift in the first half when Williams sat out most of it in foul trouble. Odigie scored 10 points in the first period on 4-of-5 shooting and recorded five rebounds. He finished with 12 points, as he used his soft touch to drain key midrange jumpers, while leading with a team-high seven boards.
Williams finished with nine points, while connecting on a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left to seal the victory. Williams added five rebounds and two steals.
Eric Vila added five points, four rebounds and three assists, while Nigel Hawkins scored two points and recorded a rebound and steal.
The Miners shot 11-of-13 from the free-throw line (84.6 percent) and dished out 14 assists. UTEP also forced 18 Lobo turnovers and snagged a season-high nine steals that led to 21 points off turnovers.
Lyle led UNM with 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Makuach Maluach chipped in with 11 points. Bragg tallied 10 points and led with nine rebounds before leaving the contest with an injury.
Up next, UTEP will host East Central University on Wednesday, Nov. 27 with tipoff set for 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post