Omega Harris and Lee Moore combined for 40 points and nine three-point field goals, as UTEP shot 11-for-19 from beyond the arc in securing its first road victory of the season, 84-74 at FIU on Thursday night.
The Miners (14-11, 6-6 C-USA) have reeled off three straight Conference USA victories for the first time this season to get back to the .500 mark in league play. UTEP also avenged a 79-69 loss to FIU (11-14, 5-7 C-USA) at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 23.
“It’s nice to finally get a road win, and particularly against a team that had beaten us at home,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We’d like to think that maybe we’re getting a little better.”
Harris and Moore both scored 20 points. Harris finished 5-for-7 from outside and Moore was 4-for-5.
The Miners rode sizzling shooting to a 45-37 lead at the half. UTEP made 9-of-12 three-pointers in the first 20 minutes as Harris and Moore were both 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Harris made three triples in the first 10 minutes in staking the Miners to a 15-14 lead. Then it was Moore’s turn to get hot. He hit threes on three consecutive possessions to turn a 23-22 deficit into a 31-28 lead.
The Miners closed the period with a 10-3 run as FIU missed four straight shots before Daviyon Draper cut an 11-point deficit down to eight by making a three right before the first-half buzzer.
The Panthers clawed back in it early in the second half, but a 12-0 run extended a 59-54 UTEP lead to 71-54. The Miners led by as many as 21 points in the second half. FIU ended the game with a 10-2 run long after it had been decided.
The Miners shot a season-best 56.3 percent from the field.
“We shot the ball really well from the three-point line tonight,” Floyd said. “We got a really nice effort from Tevin Caldwell off the bench in terms of his rebounding and defending. We did a much better job on their two big guys, who I think are as good as any two bigs in the league, in [Adrian] Diaz and Draper. We were much improved in that area.”
Diaz scored 12 points with seven rebounds, and had a horrible night at the line (4-for-12) for an FIU team that finished 15-for-32 at the charity stripe. Draper also scored 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting. He was 1-for-5 with three points in the second half.
Elmo Stephen led FIU with 18 points in a reserve role, and Donte McGill scored 16.
The Miners received significant contributions from several players.
“I love the fact that Dominic Artis had 10 assists,” Floyd said. “I thought Lee Moore and Omega [Harris] both played with more poise than they have played with to this point on the road. We got really solid minutes from [Jake] Flaggert and Brodricks Jones off the bench, which was encouraging. Terry Winn did a great job, I thought, all night long on Diaz.”
Earvin Morris scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. Winn collected 11 points, eight rebounds and three steals. Caldwell chipped in with eight points and six boards.
The Panthers outrebounded the Miners 33-29 and scored 15 second-chance points.
“We gave up too many second chance points. It has been an issue for us all year long,” Floyd said. “Although we can almost live with the rebounding differential in this game. That has been an area of great deficit for us on the road. I think we’re -7 or -8 in league games on the road. So against those two big guys, it’s probably somewhat acceptable for this group that we’ve got.”
The Miners have averaged 96.3 points in their last three games.
UTEP will conclude its stay in the Sunshine State on Saturday when it plays at Florida Atlantic at 4 p.m. MT. The game will be nationally televised on the American Sports Network and on KFOX-TV in El Paso.
“We seem to be playing with a lot of offensive confidence right now,” Floyd said. “That’s a great thing. We’ll hope that we can carry this over into our next ballgame.”