CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS – Earvin Morris scored 22 of his 28 points after halftime as UTEP rallied from a 17-point deficit and beat Colorado State, 99-90 in double overtime, to capture the championship of the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic on Saturday afternoon at the American Bank Center.
The Miners are 6-0 for the first time in 15 years and won an in-season tournament outside of their own Sun Bowl Invitational for the first time since December of 1984, when they finished first at the Saluki Shootout in Carbondale, Ill.
UTEP joined Virginia and TCU as champions of the three-year event.
Morris was named tournament MVP after making 10-of-17 shots and 7-of-8 free throws. Lee Moore matched him with 28 points, 20 after halftime. Hooper Vint added 13 points and nine rebounds, and Terry Winn scored 12 points.
Moore and Vint were named to the All-Tournament Team.
The Miners trailed 47-30 at halftime after Colorado State (5-1) made nine three pointers and enjoyed a 37-14 rebounding advantage.
“We didn’t holler and scream at them,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said of the halftime adjustments. “We just said ‘Hey look, our offense is contributing to us getting killed on the boards, taking one pass shots and the long rebounds. We’ve got to attack more and we’ll be more aggressive.
“I just think we were so thoroughly dominated in the first half that it was probably hard for [Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy] to get his guys to believe that we could come back.”
To the Miners’ credit, however, they opened the second half with 10 straight points to close the gap to 47-40. Colorado State was able to push the lead back to 11 (61-50) with under nine minutes remaining, but UTEP kept chipping away. Down 62-52, the Miners went on a 9-0 run and pulled within one (62-61) on a three-point play by Moore with 5:13 to go.
UTEP finally tied it at 66 on a free throw by Moore at the 3:35 mark. After Colorado State reinstated a three-point lead (73-70) on a jumper by Emmanuel Omogbo with 1:24 to play, Morris buried a three pointer to send it to overtime.
The Miners took their first lead since 20-18 on a jumper by Morris with 4:13 left in overtime. That put UTEP ahead 75-73. The Miners had an 81-79 lead in the final 30 seconds of the first overtime, but the Rams’ Gian Clavell tied it with a layup and Dominic Artis missed a jumper with one second remaining.
UTEP never trailed in the second overtime. The Miners scored the first four points on layups by Vint and Morris. They went up by six (91-85) on two free throws by Moore with 2:26 on the clock. Clavell answered with a three to cut the deficit in half.
Moore missed a three, the Rams secured the defensive rebound, and Prentiss Nixon missed the potential game-tying three pointer. Tevin Caldwell secured the defensive rebound, Earvin Morris was fouled with 1:42 remaining and the Miners iced it with free throws down the stretch.
“Our guys did a nice job in the first four minutes [of the second half] of getting stops which led to run outs,” Floyd said. “And we look up and we’ve gone from 17 down to 11 down. We thought ‘OK, maybe we’ve got a shot here.’ So I’m real proud of them.
“We’ve got a lot of things that we still need to get better at. We got thoroughly pummeled on the glass, 73-47. I’ve never been in a game where two guys on the other team had 12 and 10 boards at halftime. We’ve got to simply get better on the glass some way or another. We’ve got to figure that out. I think we can learn a lot from this game though, and that’s the beautiful thing about it. That’s a very good, well-coached Colorado State team and it’s a quality win for us.”
The Rams, who won at Northern Iowa earlier this year right before the Panthers knocked off top-ranked North Carolina, were led by Clavell who scored 35 points with 10 rebounds. Omogbo had 15 points and 20 boards. Tiel Daniels and Joe De Ciman chipped in with 16 and 12 rebounds respectively.
UTEP outscored Colorado State 43-26 in the second half and stopped the Rams’ three-point shooting barrage. They were 9-for-23 from beyond the arc in the first half, 3-for-18 thereafter.
The Miners once again flashed their depth with Artis, Morris and Winn in foul trouble over the course of the game.
“We were able to get great minutes from Trey Touchet off the bench and Paul Thomas off the bench in critical times,” Floyd said. “Those two freshmen were outstanding, and Christian Romine for a couple of minutes. And then I thought we played with poise defensively with those fouls. Containment was a little better.”
The Miners passed the first leg of a demanding six-game stretch that features upcoming games against I-10 rival NM State (twice), Washington State on the road and UT Arlington at home. The Mavericks have already won at Ohio State and Memphis.
Floyd was asked what he learned about his team in come-from-behind victories over Southern Illinois and Colorado State.
“I just think they learned how to play down 17 and you can learn also from the other team that if you’re up 17, sometimes it’s not enough,” he said. “You’ve got to go back and you’ve got to continue to play.”
The Miners will put their unbeaten mark on the line when they play at NM State on Wednesday at 7 p.m., their first road game of the season.
Author: UTEP Athletics