Dominic Artis scored 25 of his career-high 33 points in the second half as UTEP outraced Marshall, 112-108, with members of the 1966 national championship team in attendance for the 50th anniversary festivities on Thursday.
The Miners (12-11, 4-6 C-USA) battled back from 14 down over the final 18 minutes in one of the most exciting games ever played in the Don Haskins Center. It marked the first time that UTEP was involved in a regulation game where two teams scored 100 points since Jan. 9, 1961, when it lost at Arizona State 119-103. That was the year before the legendary Don Haskins took the helm of the program.
“Surely coach Haskins wasn’t watching that defense [tonight],” coach Tim Floyd said with a smile afterwards. “Good gosh. Fifty-year anniversary and we set it back 50 years defensively. But I’m proud of our guys. They played with a lot of heart, a lot of fight.”
The 112 points were the third-most scored in school history and the most since Dec. 30, 2000, when UTEP routed New Mexico Highlands 121-86 in “the Don.” The 65 second-half points were the second-most in the record book behind the 78 versus Highlands.
Artis became the first Miner player to score 30 points in a game since Randy Culpepper tallied 33 versus Houston on Feb. 19, 2011. But he had more than enough support from Earvin Morris (20 points), Lee Moore (17), Omega Harris (15) and Terry Winn, who scored all 13 of his points in the second half.
“We had several guys that really played well offensively,” Floyd said. “We start with Dominic, and Lee Moore really got the ball to the rim in the second half. Earvin Morris, who had really struggled, had six assists and one turnover and 20 points. They moved the ball and as a result we scored. Terry gave us a lift in the second half.”
The Miners shot 61.8 percent in the second half, outscoring the Herd 65-53 to wipe out a 55-47 deficit. UTEP started to make its move with 12:11 remaining, trailing 80-71. Artis made a three-pointer to begin a 10-0 run that put the Miners ahead (81-80) for the first time since late in the first half. Artis scored seven of the 10 points during the run.
After UTEP extended its lead to seven (92-85), the Herd came storming back. A 10-2 spurt ended with a three-point play by Ryan Taylor. Marshall was back in front 95-94 with 5:40 to go.
The Herd still led by one (108-107) with 1:08 to play after Jon Elmore hit a couple of free throws. Moore broke the tie – and gave UTEP the lead for good – on two foul shots of his own with 51 seconds left. The Miners scored their last six points at the line over the final 1:26 with reserve Tevin Caldwell taking an active role, securing two crucial offensive boards off missed free throws to extend possessions.
The second half alone featured nine ties and 15 lead changes.
James Kelly led the Herd (11-12, 7-3 C-USA) with 26 points. Elmore and Taylor contributed 21 and 20 respectively.
“We never could get our arms around them defensively,” Floyd said. “They’re hard to guard. There’s a reason why they were scoring 95 a game through the first six games of league play. It’s a good team. Really good team. They’ll be hard to beat on a neutral floor in the conference tournament for anybody when you can score like that.”
The game was fairly even statistically. UTEP shot 56.1 percent, Marshall 53.5 percent. Rebounds were 36-35 in favor of the Herd. Both teams made 11 three-pointers.
“We got to the foul line more than they did, and that helped,” Floyd said. “We had two fewer turnovers. I guess that helps. We hung around on the boards, which as you know has been a real issue for us. Dominic Artis is becoming the guy that we thought we were getting here the last two games. He has played very aggressively and that has helped us. I would say those things were all very important.”
Artis followed up a near triple-double at LA Tech with the 33 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
“He’s just more aggressive toward the rim,” Floyd said. “He’s not settling for all jump shots, although he did get it going from the perimeter there. He made three or four jump shots in a row. He got his head up. I thought the minutes that Lee Moore had driving Kelly were really important and helped us there in the second half. We were able to get baskets.”
Floyd was appreciative of the crowd of 6,993.
“I thought they were just awesome, absolutely awesome,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll come out here as inspired [Saturday]. That’s why it’s such a great basketball job. The fans love it here. They really like their ball.”
The Miners will salute the ’66 champs at the WKU game on Saturday at 3 p.m. Tickets are still available by calling 747-5234 or visiting ticketmaster.com