Lee Moore scored nine of his game-high 17 points in a 23-0 run early in the game, as UTEP snapped a five-game losing skid with an 87-68 rout of Sam Houston State on Tuesday at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (7-5) finished third in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational and notched their first victory in the month of December to enter the holiday break on a high note.
“We were pleased with the win,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We’re not going to go too crazy with it. We understand that we’ve still got a long way to go as a basketball team. I thought we did a much better job tonight of keeping the ball out of the lane. We had guys loaded up in the lane and it really helped us. We went back and defensive rebounded it better against a team that doesn’t look like a great rebounding team physically, but they have been really good collectively.”
Sam Houston State (5-7) scored the game’s first four points. Less than six minutes later, the Miners led 23-4. Moore scored the first seven points in the run, and nine of the first 12. Omega Harris (16 points) and Earvin Morris (11) both hit a pair of three pointers during the spurt.
The Bearkats were able to get within six (32-26) late in the first half, but the Miners closed the period with a 13-4 run to build a 45-30 lead.
The closest Sam Houston State could get in the second half was nine points, as UTEP’s lead reached as many as 24 points.
The Miners limited the Bearkats to 40 percent shooting and outrebounded them 42-36 as Dominic Artis collected his first collegiate double-double. He finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
“Dominic Artis was really good on the glass. He was really good in the open floor,” Floyd said. “I thought we were all willing to make the next easy pass. The positive stats were the rebounding, getting to the foul line and keeping them off of the foul line, which meant that we didn’t get beat off the dribble all night long and let them in the lane, and we did a better job on the defensive board.”
After taking fewer free throws than their opponent in six straight games, the Miners finished 19-for-28 at the charity stripe to the Bearkats’ 9-for-20. UTEP also shot 50 percent from the floor and 46 percent (12-for-26) from outside led by Harris, who buried five three pointers in nine attempts.
But the 23-0 run was what ultimately put the wind back in the Miners’ sails.
“It was defensive stops, it was open floor play, it was next easy pass,” Floyd said of the spurt. “I thought that we kept them out of the lane. They had to settle for jump shots. We were very good in the open floor in terms of our decision making, probably the best we have been this year.”
Harris is averaging 18.3 points through three games, shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 54.5 percent from outside and 75 percent from the line.
“The thing that he did best for me [tonight] was at times he pulled it back,” Floyd said. “He has been a one-speed player, like 99 miles an hour. Great players can play fullcourt and halfcourt if they need to.”
Floyd was also particularly pleased with the performance of Paul Thomas, who started and contributed five points, six rebounds and three blocked shots in 24 minutes.
“He was told he would stay out there if he could help his teammates when they got beat and fill and keep the ball out of the lane,” Floyd said. “He tried to go rebound it. He had two offensive boards in the first three minutes of the game. We haven’t had that from anybody this year at any time. So he’s trying. He’s young, he’s trying to figure it out, but he’s a guy who looks you in the eye and he’s listening, he’s paying attention, he wants to get better and he will get better because he’s an athlete.”
The Miners will take a quick holiday break before returning to action on Tuesday, Dec. 29 against UT Rio Grande Valley in the Haskins Center, their final tuneup prior to the start of Conference USA play.
“I’m hoping that we can grow from this game,” Floyd said. “Our guys will get away from it for three days. We’ll be back the night of the 26th [practicing]. We’ll try to regroup and re-earn our crowd support. We played like a bunch of saps here a couple of games. But let me say this, every team that beat us is a good basketball team and I’m not sure whether Washington State will get there or not, but the rest of them will be in the NCAA Tournament. We’re a new group trying to figure it out right now, and maybe we took a step in that direction.”
Author: UTEP Athletics