Lamar Peters scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half, including a series of big three-pointers, as Mississippi State edged UTEP 61-54 in the fifth-place game of the Gildan Charleston Classic on Sunday afternoon.
The Bulldogs (3-1) trailed 43-35 with about 13 minutes left when a four-point play by Peters ignited a 9-0 Bulldog run. The Miners (2-2) regained a 45-44 lead on two free throws by Kelvin Jones with 10:18 remaining, but Mississippi State scored the next five points. The Bulldogs were clinging to a 53-51 lead when Peters buried another triple at the 3:13 mark. Peters also had the dagger with 51 seconds left in a 56-54 game.
“The four-point play, that can happen,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “That kid had not made a shot all year and he made four big ones tonight, so you give him credit. He also made a couple of nice plays off penetration and kicks in the screen and roll.”
Peters came in scoreless in two games and 0-for-7 from the floor, but he made 4-of-6 shots (4-of-5 three-pointers) on Sunday. The Bulldogs received a combined 31 points from a pair of unlikely suspects, as Aric Holman scored a career-high 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
The Miners got off to great starts in the first and second half. They led 15-4 six and a half minutes in, after putting together a 10-0 run.
“You credit their ability to withstand two surges that we had, one at the start of each half,” Floyd said.
UTEP, which entered the game shooting the fifth-best percentage in the country (.554), made just 7-of-26 shots in the second half (.269) and finished at 37.3 percent for the game. The Miners were 4-for-22 from three-point range, 1-for-9 in the second half.
“We had some great opportunities to start the second half,” Floyd said. “They couldn’t score for about five minutes and we got up. We didn’t execute as well as we would’ve liked during that stretch. We weren’t very efficient, but we were able to build the lead.”
The Miners held Mississippi State to 40.4 percent shooting and did the job on the Bulldogs’ top three scorers – Quinndary Weatherspoon, I.J. Ready and Tyson Carter – who were a combined 7-for-22 from the field with 24 points.
The Miners were playing short-handed without no. 4 scorer Terry Winn, who wasn’t with the team for disciplinary reasons but is expected back this week.
“We had our opportunities. We had great looks,” Floyd said. “We generally shoot the ball better than that. [Jake] Flaggert was 1-for-8 tonight and made his first three or four [on Friday]. He can really shoot it. The 4-for-22 was part of our issue. I thought they defended well. We would’ve liked to have shot the ball a little better from the free throw line [12-for-20]. We didn’t get that done.”
Dominic Artis led the Miners with 15 points while adding five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Matt Willms continues to play at high level, posting another career-high in minutes (32) and his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
“Their small lineup probably bothered us with the quickness and the three guards out there, Weatherspoon, Peters and Ready,” Floyd said. “They made a couple of shots late and we had a couple of opportunities. Omega [Harris’] three in the corner would’ve put us up one (with 1:17 remaining). They go down and score and it’s a little different game. Credit the Bulldogs.”
Despite dropping two of three games in the tournament, the Miners gained a great deal of confidence by going toe-to-toe with a team from the SEC.
“Great experience,” Floyd said of the tournament. “I was really pleased with Dominic Artis getting a hold of our offense, getting us organized. As a result we had the ability to understand when the shot was going up for us. I thought our offense affected us defensively [against Wake Forest on Thursday], just quick shots out of control. We turned it over too much, couldn’t get organized. And I just thought that the fact we got into play, that we played through Matt, that [Dominic] kept us organized, I thought he just played tremendous, the best he has played in his career. And that was a real, real positive for us moving forward.
“Our defense got better. We only turned it over 12 times tonight. A lot of teams wouldn’t like that, but when you’re turning it over 19 or 20 a night, that’s a marked improvement. I think those two games will help us as we move forward. I really do.”
The Miners will be home for six of their next seven games, starting on Wednesday when they host Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m. All tickets are $8 and $10 for this game and are available by calling 747-5234.