MURFREESBORO, Tn. – After being down by as many as nine points, the UTEP Miners fought back and had a gave themselves a chance to win the first road game of the season. But with one second remaining, Ountae Campbell’s inbound pass from full court was deflected and Middle Tennessee scratched out a 48-47 victory in the Murphy Center Saturday night.
“I challenged this group a couple days ago. I thought our guys, for the better part of the season, played with energy and effort – give or take maybe four of those where we didn’t have that kind of effort and energy we had to have and we were coming off one of those games,” Terry said. “I challenged those guys and asked them, ‘how do you want to land this plane this year?’. Because we can’t start talking about next year, until we land the plane this year. We got to go down with a fight. We cannot go down laying down, crashing and burning. I give my guys credit. They kept fighting, they kept trying to find a way and we had a chance to win the ball game.”
The Miners, with seven scholarship players and four of them being freshmen, and a limited bench with walk-ons, kept fighting all season under first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry. And despite losing its previous five games by an average of 15 points, Terry’s players answered his challenge with a competitive contest against MT.
The Miners (8-21, 3-15 Conference USA), despite shooting poorly, tallied a season-low nine turnovers that kept them in the ball game. The Blue Raiders (11-20, 8-10 C-USA) took advantage of UTEP’s short bench down the stretch as Kaosi Ezeagu and Paul Thomas both fouled out.
Thomas, in his final game in a UTEP uniform, led all scorers with 14 points and tallied three rebounds with a blocked shot.
Jordan Lathon, who played all 40 minutes in his final game as a freshman, hit a pair of late threes that kept his squad in the game. The first came at the 6:11 mark to get UTEP within three points (43-40), while the second clutch trey was made with 3:32 left in the contest that tied the game 44-44. The Miners trailed the entire ball game up to that point.
MT’s Junior Farquhar answered with a bucket of his own and Jayce Johnson connected on a pair of free throws at the 2:20 mark to go up four points (48-44).
UTEP, despite its record and struggles during the 2018-19 campaign, kept fighting. Nigel Hawkins came up with a steal, made a layup on the fast break, drew the foul and converted a three-point play with 44 seconds remaining the make it a one-point game.
The Blue Raiders on the following possession was fouled with four seconds. James Hawthorne missed both free throws, Campbell snagged the rebound and called a timeout. Campbell tried to look for Lathon for the last shot, but time expired after the attempted pass was deflected to half court and ending the ball game.
The Miners went into the locker room down 25-18, but came back with a strong second half and outscoring MT, 29-23.
Lathon played all 40 minutes for the first time in his young career and led the team with four assists. Lathon added eight points, five boards and two blocks to his stat line. Hawkins played 39 minutes and registered a career-high 10 rebounds, while also tallying eight points. Hawkins finished as UTEP’s third leading scorer at 12.6 points per game and Lathon averaged 10.9 points per contest. Lathon led the Miners with 74 assists and tallied 23 blocks at the point guard position.
Campbell recorded five points, and Ezeagu and Gilles Dekoninck each made a free throw. Evan Gilyard chipped in with 10 points, two steals and two assists. He went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe.
MT had one double-digit scorer as Antonio Green led with 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting after scoring 26 points on Wednesday in El Paso. Hawthorne registered 10 rebounds and Reggie Scurry added nine points and nine boards.
UTEP tallied six steals and three blocks.