Bryson Williams scored a career-high 34 points and added 10 rebounds for his fourth career double-double, and Daryl Edwards hit a career-best five three-point buckets on his way to 18 points, as the pair led UTEP to its biggest comeback in program history, defeating UTSA, 80-77 in overtime in the Haskins Center on Wednesday night.
The Miners (11-7, 2-3 Conference USA), who were down 24 points with 14:43 remaining, got a much-needed victory as their comeback tied for 24th largest in NCAA history. UTEP rallied from 19 points down against WKU on Feb. 6, 2016.
“What a game. What a game,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We beat a team who’s playing as well as anybody in our league. We have a lot of respect for [UTSA Head Coach] Steve [Henson], and UTSA. We know that guys can really score the basketball. They put a lot of pressure on us, defensively and we had to guard two of the better scorers in college basketball. Jackson and Wallace are elite-level scorers. They had it going early and they were making shots. We didn’t come out with the kind of intensity and effort that we’ve had in practice the last couple days.”
Jhivvan Jackson (29 points), the nation’s second-leading scorer, and Keaton Wallace (26 points) combined for 55 points. The pair outscored the Miners, 32-28 in the first half but it wasn’t enough for the Roadrunners (8-10, 2-3 C-USA), who was looking to secure their third consecutive league win.
“We didn’t come with the defensive intensity that we needed. UTSA is an elite scoring team and they came out doing exactly that,” Williams said. “We had a long talk in the locker room. We knew we had to come harder and lock down on defense. We did that tonight.”
Souley Boum, Edwards, Nigel Hawkins, Eric Vila and Williams played the last 17:33 of the contest, as UTEP outscored UTSA, 44-21 during that span.
“I give my guys a lot of credit,” Terry said. “When we went into halftime with that lack of effort, you don’t have a lot of adjustments. It’s not about the board, it’s about the heart, this is about competing, and it’s about having pride defensively. I thought our guys responded and I give them a lot of credit on how they bounced back. They showed character through adversity and persevered against a good team.”
Vila scored six points with seven rebounds and tied his career high with six assists in 31 minutes off the bench. Vila also drew a charge with the game tied with just over 37 seconds remaining in regulation, while he threw down a late dunk in overtime.
Hawkins tallied a season-high eight rebounds, while chipping in with seven points and a pair of assists. Boum scored five of his seven points in the second half, while dishing out four assists.
After taking a 42-28 lead into the locker room, the Roadrunners upped it to 24 points (54-30) at the 14:43 mark in the second half after Jackson hit a jumper and Wallace followed with a layup.
Edwards followed with a three-pointer, but Wallace, answered with another of his own to give his squad a 23-point advantage and silencing Miner Nation.
But the relentless Miners wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Down 56-33, Boum hit a three-point bucket that sparked a 17-0 run at the 13:06 mark. Williams followed with an and-1, while Vila nailed a three-pointer to make it a 14-point game. Williams converted another and-1, while he stole the ball on the other end that set up an Edwards’s trey, making the score 56-48.
Williams scored his eighth point during the run to make it a six-point contest (56-50) with 9:02 left.
“What we echoed to the guys was, ‘work the game possession by possession’,” Terry said. “We don’t need any home runs right now. But we have to put some consecutive stops together right now and guard.”
The Miners’ defense forced four turnovers during the run, while they forced nine turnovers overall in the final 25 minutes
Though Luka Barisic stopped the run with a made layup to make the count 58-50, Edwards got the Miners going again as his basket started an 8-2 run that was capped by a Vila free throw to tie the game at 60.
The two squads went basket-for-basket down the stretch as the scored stayed at 68-68 with no time left in regulation.
In overtime, UTEP shot 4-of-7 (57.1 percent) from the field, while UTSA went 3-for-8. Jackson scored the first points during the extra period, but Edwards followed with this fifth trey of the contest that gave UTEP its first lead (71-70) since the 14:26 mark of the first half (12-11).
Jackson made a pair of free throws at the 2:31 mark to give his squad a 74-73 edge. But Williams answered with a jumper and Vila’s dunk put the Miners up three points (77-74). Boum then sunk a pair of free throws that gave his squad its biggest lead of the night at five points (79-74).
Jackson made things interesting with a three-pointer, but he and Wallace missed jumpers in the final seconds, in which one was blocked by Vila. Edwards capped the comeback with a free throw with one second remaining.
UTEP tallied a season-high 19 assists, while collecting 10 offensive boards. The Miners turned the ball over eight times during the first half, but limited that number to only five in the second period and overtime.
The Miners’ hot free-throw shooting continued, as it shot 88.9 percent (16-18). UTEP is shooting 89.7 percent (70-78) from the line during its last three contests.
UTSA, after shooting 48.6 percent from the field in the first half, was held to 38.7 percent in the second half and overtime. The Miners shot 47.4 percent in the final 25 minutes after only 32.1 percent the first 20.
Kaden Archie, who make his fourth consecutive start, tallied five points and three assists. Efe Odigie tallied three boards, two points and an assist, while Tydus Verhoeven chipped in with a point and rebound.
Up next, UTEP will play UTSA again, this time in San Antonio on Saturday, Jan. 18.
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. MT/3 p.m. CT at the Convocation Center. The Miners and Roadrunners can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso, while the contest will be streamed on ESPN3.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post