BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Ryan Taylor converted a driving layup with three seconds left, sending no. 3 seed Marshall past no. 6 seed UTEP, 87-85, and into the Conference USA Tournament semifinals on Thursday night.
The game featured 13 ties and 16 lead changes, but in the end the Herd (17-15) was left standing.
Dominic Artis raced up the court in the final seconds, but couldn’t get a shot off as UTEP fell to 19-14 in the likely season finale.
“I thought we played very hard tonight,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “I thought we got the shots that we wanted for the most part. You look at points in the paint, we had them 50-32. We got to the line tonight, made our free throws. We had fewer turnovers than our opponent. We had two or three opportunities late that didn’t work out our way. We got the ball right to the rim.”
After falling behind by five points with about six minutes left – punctuated by a technical foul on Earvin Morris that resulted in three free throws for the Herd – the Miners battled back to regain the lead, 83-81 on two foul shots by Omega Harris with 1:35 to go. Taylor tied it on a putback off his own miss with 1:20remaining. Terry Winn rebounded Artis’ missed layup and scored to put UTEP ahead 85-83 with 46 seconds to play. C.J. Burks knotted it up once again on free throws with 38 seconds left.
Harris drove to the rim, but his potential go-ahead layup was swatted away by Taylor with 18 seconds on the clock.
“It was a huge play,” Floyd said. “Taylor did a fine job. He made a big basket there on a penetration and drive. We assumed that it would be [James] Kelly or Taylor, and he was just able to turn the corner on us and get to the rim. Taylor had a heck of a game.”
Taylor scored 21 points with 14 rebounds. Kelly also had a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards. Austin Loop was a major factor for the Herd, accounting for six of their 13 three-point field goals and scoring 18 points.
“I thought we did a nice job on Kelly, who is an outstanding offensive player,” Floyd said. “For the most part I thought we did a nice job on [Jon] Elmore. They took 39 threes. We knew they were going to take a lot. Generally you can live with that percentage, 33 percent [13-for-39] from there.”
Winn scored a career-high 21 points for the Miners and added 11 rebounds for his team-leading fourth double-double. All five starters scored in double figures as Artis chipped in with 18 points, Lee Moore 14, Harris 12 and Morris 11.
The Miners started strong and took their biggest lead of the half, six points (14-8) on two free throws by Artis with 15:00 on the clock. Later in the period, the Herd went on a 10-2 run and surged ahead 34-31 on a jumper by Elmore with 6:21 remaining. UTEP answered with an 11-2 spurt and matched its earlier six-point lead (42-36) on a layup by Morris with 2:46 to play.
The Miners led 42-39 at the half. They scored the first four points of the second half to take their biggest lead of the game (46-39), but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It came down to a play,” Floyd said. “It was two very competitive teams that played very hard, two evenly matched teams. Give credit to Marshall. They had a big defensive stop late and we didn’t.”
Floyd was asked about postseason opportunities for the Miners.
“We have turned down opportunities to play in the CIT, CBI, all that, we turned down Vegas, as we did three years ago,” he said. “So I don’t know about anything else at this point.”
Author: UTEP Athletics