Earvin Morris scored 17 points in his return to the UTEP lineup, and the Miners made 11-of-19 threes in a 77-62 triumph over Texas State on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center.
Morris went 4-for-7 from long range after sitting out UTEP’s first three games of the season – including two exhibitions – and Jake Flaggert was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc as the Miners moved to 2-0 on the young season.
UTEP went on an 11-0 run early in the second half, turning a 44-41 lead into a 55-41 cushion. Texas State (1-1) closed to within five points (61-56) on a three-pointer by Ethan Montalvo with 6:44 remaining. Freshman Brodricks Jones scored the next four points as the Miners pushed the lead back to nine points, and the Bobcats couldn’t get closer than eight the rest of the way.
Flaggert buried threes on back-to-back possessions to increase the margin to 12 points (71-59) and effectively put Texas State away.
“First time we’ve been really tested,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “I thought that was a solid basketball team that we played against. It’s a really well-coached team. They had a real plan and a purpose and they bothered us by doing a lot of things in the game. They really exposed some things that we have to continue to work on and get better at.”
Lee Moore matched Morris with a game-high 17 points. Dominic Artis filled up the stat sheet for the second straight game with 11 points, six rebounds, nine assists and two steals. Hooper Vint added 10 points.
“I thought Dominic Artis was really good,” Floyd said. “I think we got decent minutes out of our bench. Buddha [Brodricks Jones] and Paul Thomas had to come in and give us some minutes, and Terry Winn had to give us some minutes. All three are freshmen and it looks like we’re going to have to rely on them for a while.”
That’s because the Miners took a double hit on the injury front Saturday.
“Tevin Caldwell was concussed,” Floyd said. “He’ll go through the protocol and we’ll find out when he can play again. Matt Willms is in pain right now with his foot. We are really concerned that maybe we’ve lost him. So it’s a very, very difficult night from that aspect.”
Floyd said the plan originally was to redshirt freshman Christian Romine, but that could change depending on Willms’ status moving forward.
Willms and Caldwell were limited to 10 and four minutes, respectively. Thomas and Jones led the Miner rookies with 16 and 15 minutes.
“We had a lot of new players out there playing a lot of minutes,” Floyd said.
After Texas State jumped out to a 5-0 lead, the Miners went on an 18-5 run to go ahead 18-10. The Bobcats tied it at 21 on two free throws by Emani Gant at the 7:31 mark of the second half, but Flaggert answered with a three. Morris scored the last eight points of the half for the Miners, who took a 37-30 lead into the locker room.
“We shot the ball well,” Floyd said. “I thought Jake Flaggert, the three threes that he made, were critical. Earvin certainly shot the ball well. But I don’t know what our identity would have been after tonight’s game, other than that we made 11-of-19 threes. We shot the three well. I told [the media] last week that I thought we could and we did today. Thank goodness that we did make some threes, because we wouldn’t have won the game had we not.”
Texas State, which won the rebounding battle 32-31 but was limited to 35.8 percent shooting, was led by Montalvo who scored 16 points with four three pointers.
The Miners are back in action Sunday night at 7 against Alcorn State in the Haskins Center as they open the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic.
“Tomorrow’s game will be good for us because it’s not unlike conference tournaments where you have to play back-to-back nights,” Floyd said. “We have to go out and play again tomorrow against a team that was sitting here waiting on us, so we’ll see how that goes.”