Dominic Artis scored the game-winning layup with 12 seconds left, giving UTEP a 61-60 win over Rice in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Friday at the Don Haskins Center.
Artis’ bucket came 11 seconds after Marcus Evans gave the Owls (5-9, 0-1 C-USA) their only lead of the game, 60-59, on a jumper. Evans, the national freshman scoring leader, posted 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
UTEP (9-5, 1-0 C-USA) won its C-USA opener for the ninth time in 11 years.
“We feel very fortunate with the win,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “They got the ball with the opportunity to beat us. I thought they did a great job. They really executed and played with great offensive and defensive discipline. They pounded us on the glass.”
The Miners rode a 9-2 run to a 33-23 lead late in the first half. UTEP was up 37-29 at the break after shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 45.5 percent (5-for-11) from three-point range.
UTEP scored the first five points of the second half and took its largest lead of 13 (42-29) on a layup by Terry Winn with 18:50remaining. The Miners were up 47-35 a couple of minutes later, but things started to unravel when Hooper Vint picked up his third foul, followed by a technical, with 16:05 left.
“We had a technical that I thought affected the ball game,” Floyd said. “I was really disappointed in the self-discipline of our guy who is a fifth year senior, getting a technical and he deserved it … we had to sit him for 12 minutes. I thought he came back in and wasn’t right. He turned it over. He’s a better player than that, a much better player than that and should be setting the tone for our other guys in terms of how we’re going to go approach things both at home and on the road.”
The Miners scored two points in the next seven and a half minutes, allowing Rice to creep within five (49-44). The Miners totaled 24 points in the second half, making 8-of-24 shots (33.3 percent) and 1-of-6 three pointers.
Lee Moore broke the dry spell with two free throws at the 8:25 mark. But Rice hung around, drawing within two (59-57) on a three-pointer by Egor Koulechov with 2:44 to go.
Evans scored the next three points to put the Owls into the lead before Artis won it late. Evans missed a jumper in the final seconds, Winn blocked Andrew Drone’s putback attempt and the Miners held on.
“The encouraging thing in the game was I thought Evans was limited and that was our deal,” Floyd said. “We wanted to do a job on Evans, who is one of the premier freshmen in the United States. I thought Dominic did a good job in that area and I thought the job that Lee Moore did on him in the first half was great.”
Evans (13 points, 4-for-11 FGs) and Koulechov (11 points, 3-for-12 FGs) were held to 24 points, nearly 15 below their combined season average. Max Guercy and Bishop Mency both scored 11 points for Rice, and Drone had nine boards as the Owls won the rebounding battle 42-31.
“Mency made a couple of plays,” Floyd said. “I thought Drone got his head up when Hooper was out of the game. They were smart, they went to him, they kept pounding us inside and consequently they pounded us on the glass. “
Moore led four Miners in double figures with 15 points. Artis and Winn scored 14 apiece and Omega Harris had 12. Winn added eight rebounds and two blocks.
It wasn’t always pretty, but a needed home victory with North Texas coming to town on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Mean Green rallied in the second half to win at UTSA, 70-66, on Friday.
“I feel like we’re 0-1 but we’re 1-0,” Floyd said. “I recommended that young coach for a job a year ago because I want him out of our league. I think he’s pretty good. We fought the fight here today and if we weren’t at home, I don’t know that we could’ve gotten the win.”
Artis finished 5-for-11 from the field, including the game winner.
“It was a big basket, a really big basket,” Floyd said. “We didn’t want to call a timeout. We wanted to try to play out of flow because it seems to be where we’re at our best. We didn’t want to give them an opportunity to change defenses. They’re a multi defensive team. They’ve got a trap package, they’ve got a zone package. I didn’t want us to get on our heels with a timeout. Those are things that we talk about. We get in those situations late where we’re going to try to go get something at the rim, particularly given that there were 10 fouls on the opponent.”
Tickets for Sunday’s game, starting at $8, are available by calling 747-5234.
Author: UTEP Athletics