BOCA RATON, FLA. – UTEP held Florida Atlantic to 22 second-half points, and pulled away late for a 60-55 win over the Owls on Thursday night in Boca Raton.
The Miners (12-15, 10-5 C-USA) outscored the Owls 28-22 in the second half. They limited FAU to 33.3 percent (9-for-27) shooting, including 1-for-13 from three-point range, over the last 20 minutes to begin their Florida trip on a winning note.
“We did a terrific job defensively in the second half,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We guarded the three-point line and took away a lot of their key guys on the defensive end of the court. We had a big respect for Gerdarius Troutman, and he had two field goals. Omega [Harris] did a nice job there. Justin Massey had a field goal. We held [Nick] Rutherford to a field goal. Our guards are guarding so well.”
Troutman, who scored 22 points and made six threes at UTEP on Jan. 14, had one field goal in each half and was 2-for-5 from the field, 0-for-3 from distance. Massey, averaging 9.1 ppg, was 1-for-4 from the floor and 1-for-3 from beyond the arc. Adonis Filer scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the second half for the Owls (9-17, 5-10 C-USA).
UTEP led by as many as six points in the first half, but the Owls rallied to take a 33-32 lead into the locker room. After the teams traded baskets to open the second stanza, the Miners went on an 8-2 run and built a 42-37 lead on a jumper by Jones with 12:56 remaining. UTEP wouldn’t trail again, although there were some anxious moments when the Owls cut a seven-point deficit down to three (58-55) on two free throws by Filer with 56 seconds left.
Troutman missed a three that could’ve tied it with 19 seconds left and, following a wild scramble for the loose ball, Harris missed a breakaway dunk. But Trey Touchet secured the key offensive rebound with 11 seconds remaining, and Jake Flaggert made two big free throws with six seconds left to push the lead back to five and all but end it.
The Miners outrebounded the Owls 32-30 as Dominic Artis (nine rebounds) and Harris (eight) combined for 17 boards. Artis scored seven of his team-high 12 points in the last five minutes, including a crucial three-pointer with 3:51 left that gave UTEP its biggest lead (56-49). He also provided a pivotal jumper with 1:11 to go on a strong move into the lane that put the Miners in front 58-53.
Harris scored 11 points, Matt Willms 10 and Kelvin Jones added a career-high 10 with two steals in 15 minutes off the bench. His minutes were huge as the reigning Conference USA Player of the Week, Paul Thomas, was limited to 16 minutes due to foul trouble. Jones made 5-of-7 shots and the UTEP bench was a combined 8-for-10 from the floor.
“We got a terrific performance out of Dominic Artis tonight. He made some big, big shots for us down the stretch,” Floyd said. “We got some terrific minutes out of Kelvin Jones off the bench. He showed signs of developing into a very, very nice player tonight. We had a couple of guys struggling from the floor who normally don’t, like Omega. [Kelvin] kind of helped us out. I thought as big as anything, Jake Flaggert took three big-time charges in the second half. In any other game, those would’ve been baskets but he just keeps throwing his body out there in front of guys and takes away three possessions for the other team and gives us three more possessions. Those things are underrated.”
The Miners outrebounded Florida Atlantic 20-15 in the second half with Artis and Harris combining for 11 rebounds.
“Dominic continues to be the best rebounding guard that I have coached,” Floyd said. “He only had one turnover, 12 points, nine boards, and Omega had eight boards. Even though he struggled offensively, he helped us defensively and on the glass.”
The Miners, still tied for third place in the league with Old Dominion, will wrap up their Sunshine State tour at FIU on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT.