UTEP freshman Kaosi Ezeagu scored a career-high 12 points (4-7 field goals, 4-5 free throws) and tied his season best with nine rebounds, but Middle Tennessee (10-20, 7-10 Conference USA) jumped out to a big lead and never looked back as it defeated UTEP (8-20, 3-14 C-USA), 69-53, Wednesday night in the Don Haskins Center.
“We knew coming in these guys averaged 12 offensive rebounds a game and we struggled taking away one of the better things those guys do really well,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “MT got off to a great start and we just didn’t have the kind of urgency we needed for this game.”
Senior Paul Thomas was honored prior to tipoff as he played in his 113th game and made his 87th career start.
The Houston product led the Miners with 13 points on “Senior Night” after a slow start shooting the ball. Thomas scored all his points in the second half and shot 5-for-7 after missing his first 10 field goals. Thomas added seven rebounds.
Jordan Lathon scored 10 of his 11 points in the first half and registered six rebounds and a team-high three assists. Lathon added a blocked shot. Fellow freshman guard Nigel Hawkins tallied 10 points with four rebounds and two assists. Ezeagu made his sixth consecutive start in the absence of fellow freshman big man Efe Odigie, who’s out the remainder of the season due to injury.
The Blue Raiders built an 18-point lead (38-19) heading into the locker room and shot 45.5 percent from the field during the first period. UTEP allowed a season-highs in offensive rebounds (19) and overall rebounds (51).
The Miners outscored the Blue Raiders 34-31 in the second half that was fueled by a 9-0 run after being down 65-37. But UTEP was down double digits the entire night and was down by as many as 29 points at the 7:44 mark.
Antonio Green led his squad with 26 points on 9-of-22 shooting (5-13 three-point field goals). James Hawthorne tallied 18 points and Reggie Scurry chipped in with 15 points. Jayce Johnson led MT with 13 boards and six on offensive side.
Up next, UTEP will close out the 2018-19 season at Middle Tennessee on March 9. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. MT/7:30 CT.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald Post