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Gallery+Story: Two in a Row! Miners down Florida Atlantic in OT 66-65

Omega Harris scored 18 points, and hit the jumper that gave the Miners the lead for good to start overtime in an eventual 66-65 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

Following 12 consecutive losses, UTEP (4-13, 2-3 C-USA) has posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season.  The Miners knocked off FIU in double overtime, 88-87, on Thursday.

UTEP has played consecutive overtime games for the first time since January of 1995, and posted consecutive overtime victories for the first time since topping Cincinnati (OT) and Kansas (2OT) in the 1966 NCAA Tournament.

“I thought we did a better job tonight of establishing a post-up game,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “It was probably our best game of the year in terms of lack of turnovers, only nine which is a huge positive for us.  We still have a lot of room for growth.  Omega scored 18, and you feel like he maybe could’ve had 24 tonight.  Matt [Willms] did some nice things.  He had 16, and you feel like he could’ve had 25 tonight with little finishes and free throws, things that we’re going to keep working at and try to get better.  But our team needed this weekend.  We did some nice things.  We’re attempting to get better.  The team that we beat tonight beat Ohio State on the road earlier in the year.  They were not able to establish a post-up game.  I thought our interior defense was better.”

The Miners held FAU (5-11, 1-4 C-USA) to 36.2 percent shooting, including 21.4 percent (6-for-28) from three-point range. Gerdarius Troutman pretty much single-handedly kept the Owls in the game, scoring 22 points and making all six of his team’s three pointers.  He was 6-for-9 from beyond the arc, the rest of the squad was 0-for-19.

UTEP led throughout the first half and remained in front until 3:57 remaining in regulation, when Troutman hit two free throws for a 50-49 FAU lead.  It was the Owls’ first advantage since 4-2 early on.

Willms broke a 52-52 tie on a free throw with 1:22 remaining, and Dominic Artis’ layup pushed the Miner lead to three (55-52) with 13 seconds left.  Troutman hit his fifth three of the game with five seconds on the clock to sent it to overtime.

The Miners scored the first four points in overtime, built an eight-point lead (66-58) with 1:15 to play, then withstood a furious rally by the Owls.

After Troutman cut it to one (66-65) on his final triple of the evening with three seconds left, the ball was inbounded to Trey Touchet who threw it into the frontcourt, enabling time to run out.

UTEP placed four players in double figure scoring for the second consecutive game.  Willms scored 16, Paul Thomas had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Artis added 11 points.

“Paul Thomas has really grown here in the last three or four games, but particularly this weekend at home,” Floyd said.  “He is rebounding it, he is finishing plays, he made a nice finish coming through the lane there at the end.  We’re making little plays that we weren’t making late, like Trey rebounds a free throw late and gets fouled for two.  Paul gets a big defensive board late.  We were able to buy some minutes out of various defenses that we threw out there.  But overall we are pleased.”

After falling behind 4-2 early, the Miners scored eight straight points to take a 10-4 lead on a layup by Harris with 14:34remaining in the half.  Florida Atlantic knotted the score at 11, but UTEP answered with a 9-0 run to power ahead 20-11 on a layup by Touchet with 8:43 to play.

Florida Atlantic ended the half with an 8-2 run to trim a 24-15 deficit down to 26-23. Troutman made two of his three first-half three-pointers over the final 3:29 of the period.

The Miners will conclude their three-game homestand against UTSA next Saturday (Jan. 21) at 7 p.m.

“We’ve got another game next Saturday against a team that beat us, and it will be a good measuring stick,” Floyd said.  “I think UTSA is 4-1 in the league with a road win at Louisiana Tech.  They also swept these two teams that beat us.  I would hope that we’ll come out and play inspired again next Saturday.”

Gallery by Herald-Post Chief Photographer Andres Acosta

Video: Artis’ Buzzer Beater lifts UTEP over FIU at the Don 88-87

Dominic Artis sank the game-winning jumper right before time expired, giving the UTEP Miners a breathtaking, 88-87 double overtime victory over FIU on Thursday night in the Haskins Center.

Artis finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists and three steals as the Miners (3-13, 1-3 C-USA) ended a 12-game losing streak and posted their first win since Nov. 18.

“It worked out good for him,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We ran a little action for him late with one second to go that we would’ve normally run for Omega.  We were very fortunate.  The ball was deflected, he got the shot off, and made a big shot.”

With 1.6 seconds on the clock, Jake Flaggert inbounded the ball.  FIU’s Eric Lockett got a hand on it but couldn’t secure it, the ball went to Artis and he nailed the fadeaway.  Officials took considerable time to review the shot before ruling that it did indeed come before the buzzer (replays showed that the ball was out of Artis’ hand with 0.4 seconds left).

UTEP rallied from a 45-41 deficit with 12:58 remaining in regulation with an 18-0 run, then squandered a 14-point lead (59-45) over the last 7:08 as FIU forced overtime.  The Panthers (4-13, 0-4 C-USA) outscored UTEP 21-7 down the stretch.

“When those leads are given up, it’s generally poor offensive decisions, missed free throws and turnovers, and that’s what happened,” Floyd said.  “And then they ran a couple of really nice actions.  When you’ve lost 10 in a row, you’re real indecisive when you get in these tight games.  Let’s face it, we’ve not had a 14-point lead either.  So playing with the lead was an issue for us.”

Artis was big in the first overtime as well, making two free throws with nine seconds left to tie it at 77.  The Panthers’ Eric Nottage, who made two threes in the first overtime, missed one with a second left that could’ve given his team the win.

In the second overtime, Nottage put FIU ahead by four (87-83) on a basket with 46 seconds left.  Artis hit a three-pointer to make it a one-point game with 34 seconds remaining before coming up with the game-winner.

The Miners had numerous heroes.  Omega Harris scored 20 points for the third consecutive game.  Paul Thomas had a career-high 19 points with 11 rebounds.  He made his first seven shots and finished 7-for-8 from the field.  Trey Touchet scored in double figures for the second time as a Miner with 11 points, and he provided some much-needed stability at the line (6-for-6) for a UTEP team that finished 16-for-30 at the stripe.

UTEP also received a major assist from a crowd of 5,696 that was thirsty for a win.

“Our crowd was great,” Floyd said.  “We’re glad they showed up and they gave us a lot of support.  I doubt we win that one on the road.”

The Miners won the battle of the boards, 47-35, against one of C-USA’s top rebounding teams.  They shot 49.3 percent to FIU’s 44.8 percent.

UTEP placed four players in double figure scoring for only the fourth time this season.

“I was real, real proud of Paul Thomas’ performance tonight,” Floyd said.  “It was really nice to see him rebound the ball like he did, and maybe he can get a grasp that when big guys rebound they tend to score.  Trey Touchet, it’s nice to see him get his head up as well.  Trey lives in the gym with Dominic.  They’re in there every day, shooting, shooting, shooting for hours and hours. And he has really struggled making shots.  He made a shot tonight, got his head up, had a nice drive, made free throws off of technicals, stepped up to the line when he hadn’t shot many free throws all year long.”

The Miners received eight points and seven rebounds from Matt Willms, and nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks from Kelvin Jones.

“Kelvin is a young talent that’s learning how to play and every minute that he gets is very, very valuable,” Floyd said.  “I thought he was really more effective than Matt tonight.  We have had issues in some games with some of our bench players coming in and the game changing with turnovers, and decisions, fouls, etcetera in tight games.  So we went with Matt down the stretch, but Kelvin arguably could’ve been out there.  He did a nice job.”

FIU, playing without two starters in leading scorer Donte McGill and Cameron Smith, had six double-figure scorers as Kimar Williams led the way with 16 points.

UTEP will try to post consecutive wins for the first time this season when it hosts Florida Atlantic on Saturday at 7 p.m.

H-P Sports in Depth: Miners Return Home to Battle FIU Thursday

It has been three weeks since the UTEP men’s basketball team played a game in the Don Haskins Center, as it has endured a string of four consecutive games outside of El Paso.

That streak will come to an end on Thursday when UTEP hosts FIU at 7 p.m.  And the Miners hope another streak will be shown the door as well, as they shoot for their first victory since Nov. 18.

The Miners are 1-6 at home this season, but FIU is 0-6 on the road with losses to Stetson (82-67), South Alabama (69-64 in overtime), Elon (84-81 in overtime), South Carolina (70-54), Florida Gulf Coast (82-63) and Florida Atlantic (73-64).

On paper, FIU looks better than 4-12.  The Panthers have three starters and eight letterwinners back from last year.  The returning starters are senior guard Anthony Boswell, senior guard Donte McGill and sophomore guard Kimar Williams.

McGill is averaging a team-leading 18.8 ppg, fourth in C-USA.  He leads the league and rates 10th nationally in free throw percentage (.924).  Graduate transfer Michael Kessens, who played in 65 games for Alabama from 2014-16, is averaging 14.1 ppg and 10.1 rpg (first C-USA/25th NCAA).  The 6-9, 228-pound Kessens is shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

FIU has been one of the top teams in C-USA in rebound margin (+5.4 rpg, third) and free throw percentage (.731, fourth).

“They’ve got several guys back that we’re familiar with from a year ago,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “[Kessens] is a very good player.  They rely on their guards that are both fine, fine players, probably the equal of what we have in the backcourt.  They just have more bodies than we have right now.  A lot of guys have come off the bench and played well for them.  We have had a struggle in that area.  They are going to present other issues for us.

The Miner bench has been outscored 322-201 this season, but the differential is more pronounced (65-11) in Conference USA play.

“The bench has really had their own issues this year,” Floyd said.  “When we go to the bench, games have changed.  We haven’t been able to find that complimentary scoring off the bench, and that has been one of our issues.”

With a dearth of scoring, Floyd preached a similar refrain of the Miners needing to play a close to perfect game.

“We’re going to have to do a lot of things right,” he said.  “Every possession is huge for our team.  We’re going to have to keep guys in the game.  Guys can’t get in foul trouble.  We’re going to have to make free throws.  We’re going to have to not turn it over.  Just little things that are so huge for our team because we don’t have a number of playmakers, guys that can go back and get you second chance points off the board, guys that can go create their own shot.  That’s where we’re limited right now.”

The Miners would love to see a third (and even a fourth) scorer emerge against FIU.  UTEP has placed two players in double figure scoring in four of the last five games.  During that stretch Dominic Artis (81) and Omega Harris (92) have accounted for 59.5 percent (173-of-291) of the team’s points.

“That’s a real issue for our team,” Floyd said.  “We have tried to play through Matt [Willms].  Matt was 1-for-4 [in the Southern Miss game] and the foot injury really killed him, although he did some nice things for us.  Paul Thomas and Matt really have to be the next guys.  We knew this was going to be an issue when Josh McSwiggan and Lee Moore left last year.  We just don’t have those two bodies, that extra 20 points a game.  And that’s where we are.”

The Miners have been exceptional historically (72-17) in C-USA home games.  They have won 16 of their last 17 league home games, although the only loss came to FIU, 79-69, last season.  UTEP has won 20 of its last 23 C-USA home games in the month of January.

They’ll have the opportunity to right the ship with FIU, Florida Atlantic (Saturday) and UTSA (Jan. 21) all coming in over the next 10 days.

“I can’t speak for the team,” Floyd said.  “I can tell you it would be damned good for me [to get a win], and I assume it would be good for them as well.”

***In Depth***

After playing its first three C-USA games on the road, UTEP (2-13, 0-3 C-USA) will be home for three straight and seven of nine starting on Thursday when it hosts FIU (4-12, 0-3 C-USA).  Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

  • UTEP will try to snap a six-game home losing streak against the Panthers, who are winless in six road games this season.
  • The Miners will be playing three consecutive C-USA home games for the fifth time since joining the league in 2005.  This also occurred once each during the 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.  UTEP was 3-0 twice and 2-1 twice in the previous three-game C-USA homestands.
  • The matchup with FIU on Thursday is UTEP’s first in the Don Haskins Center since Dec. 22, three weeks to the day; and the Miners are 72-17 in C-USA home games.
  • UTEP has won 16 of its last 17 league home games dating back to the 2014-15 season; the only loss was to FIU, 79-69, on Jan. 23, 2016.   The Miners have been particularly good in C-USA home games in the month of January, posting a 31-6 record with wins in 20 of their last 23 outings.
  • UTEP is 43-12 in C-USA home games under coach Tim Floyd.


–    Lee Moore scored a career-high 30 points, 22 in the second half, as UTEP advanced to the C-USA Championship quarterfinals with an 85-77 victory over FIU on March 9, 2016 at Legacy Arena in Birmingham.
–    UTEP led by 15 points in the first half, only to see the Panthers rally to take a three-point lead in the final five minutes before closing the game with an 18-7 run.
–    Donte McGill scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half for FIU.  Daviyon Draper added 17 points and Adrian Diaz had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
–    The Miners had two runs in the first half.  The first was 10-2 and extended a 13-12 lead to 23-14.  The second was 10-4 and pushed a 28-19 advantage to 38-23. UTEP led 40-29 at the half.
–    The Miners had their difficulties at the free throw line to start the second half and FIU was able to hang around as a result.  The Panthers cut the lead to single digits early in the frame and, off an 18-8 run, pulled within one (56-55) with 9:49 to go.
–    When Diaz made two free throws with 5:01 to play, FIU had its first lead (67-65) since 3-2.
–    Draper’s three at the 4:19 mark allowed the Panthers to match their largest lead of three points (70-67).  Dominic Artis answered with a three for the Miners to tie it.  That started a run of 10 straight points that put UTEP up 77-70 and back in charge.
–    Moore scored 10 points in the final 3:22.  He finished 8-for-9 from the field and 12-for-12 from the line with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
–    Earvin Morris scored 25 points, 15 in the first half, for the Miners.  Artis added 11 points, five rebounds and five assists with no turnovers for a UTEP team that only had seven giveaways.
–    The Miners shot 51 percent and the low turnover number was crucial on a night where they were outrebounded 43-24.


–    UTEP’s Omega Harris and Dominic Artis combined for 49 points, but Southern Miss converted 16 Miner turnovers into 24 points and raced to a 73-65 victory on Saturday in Hattiesburg.
–    The Miners couldn’t get to the line in the first half.   In the second half they went to the line 19 times, making 12, and held Southern Miss to 39.3 percent shooting.   That was good enough to play the Golden Eagles to a 34-34 draw, but not enough to carve into a 39-31 halftime deficit.
–    UTEP got down by 11 early in the second half.  The Miners scored the next seven points to make it 48-44, but couldn’t get closer.
–    Another key stretch came midway through the second half when, after Harris’ free throw made it a six-point game (54-48), Southern Miss’ Robert Thomas nailed a three-pointer.
–    Finally, with UTEP trailing by six (69-63) and under two minutes left, Artis and Harris missed a series of shots that could’ve made things interesting had they gone down.
–    The duo shot a combined 19-for-41 from the field, 4-for-19 from three-point range and 7-for-12 from the line as Harris scored a career-high 26 points, and Artis added 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.
–    The Miners went on a 9-2 run early in the first half to take a 13-10 lead.  The game was closely contested for most of the period until the Golden Eagles outscored the Miners 9-2 over the final 3:01 to go into the locker room up eight.  Artis ended a string of nine consecutive points for the Golden Eagles by banking in a jumper right before the buzzer.
–    Quinton Campbell scored 24 points with 10 rebounds for Southern Miss.  Cortez Edwards scored 17 points.  The Golden Eagles shot 46.3 percent and scored 30 points in the paint.


–    Dominic Artis was ninth in the nation in assists (6.5 apg), 16th in minutes (36.2 mpg) and 34th in steals (2.1 spg) through Jan. 10.  Omega Harris was 24th in minutes (35.8 mpg).


–    The Miners will host Florida Atlantic on Saturday at 7 p.m.  UTEP leads the series 3-1, including a clean sweep during the 2015-16 season.  The Miners beat the Owls in El Paso (71-56) and Boca Raton (89-82).

Miners Drop C-USA Opener to UTSA 67-55

Nick Billingsley scored 17 points in a reserve role, leading UTSA to a 67-55 win over UTEP in the Conference USA opener for both schools on Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center.

The Miners (2-11, 0-1 C-USA) took a 38-37 lead, their last of the game, on a layup by Dominic Artis with 14:40 remaining.  But they went cold after that, managing only two field goals over the next nine minutes.  UTSA wasn’t much more prolific offensively during the stretch, outscoring the Miners 13-4 to go ahead 50-42.

Artis cut the eight-point deficit down to five (50-45) on a three-pointer with 5:29 left.  But the Roadrunners scored the next seven points, including five from Lucas O’Brien, to put it away.

UTSA (6-8, 1-0 C-USA) improved to 6-0 at home this season under first-year head coach Steve Henson.

“You give them credit,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “They are leading the league in defensive field goal percentage.  We got into the lane and we didn’t play with any strength in the lane.  We double-clutched shots, jumped in the air, tried to make plays and made poor decisions because of their good help.”

UTEP shot 44.7 percent for the game, but that number cooled off to 40.9 percent in the second half.  The Miners scored nine field goals in the final 20 minutes, but three of those came over the final 2:37, and all from Artis who scored 18 points.

The Miners coughed up the ball 16 times, leading to 22 points for the home team.

“We turned it over too much,” Floyd said.  “Guys got in the lane consistently but didn’t make consistent plays.  When we threw it to the post we didn’t make them pay enough.  They did a nice job with their interior defense digging in.”

Besides UTSA turning it over only nine times, free throws were a difference-maker as the Roadrunners were 24-for-30 at the stripe and UTEP was 10-for-19, including 6-for-13 in the second half.  The Miners made their last three free throws after starting the second half 3-for-10.

“We fouled too much,” Floyd said.  “We fouled in late clock situations, under 10 seconds.  We fouled a three-point shooter in the first half with three seconds to go on the shot clock.  We fouled late game, under 10 seconds, things that showed no defensive poise in a game.  The 30 free throw attempts was a differential along with our 16 turnovers.  Too many turnovers from people that we have to rely on to make solid plays night in and night out.”

UTEP fell behind 19-9 midway through the first half, but rallied to take its second lead of the game, 25-23, on a jumper by Omega Harris with 2:54 remaining in the half.  That capped a 16-4 run.  The Miners led 30-29 at halftime.

Harris scored 12 points.  Paul Thomas had seven points and nine rebounds and Matt Willms added six points and eight boards. But the Miners lost the rebounding battle 34-32.

O’Brien and Gino Littles scored 13 and 11 points, respectively, for UTSA.

The Miners will hit the road once again for games at LA Tech (Thursday, 5:30 p.m. MT) and Southern Miss (Saturday, 3 p.m. MT) this week.  LA Tech won at Southern Miss, 79-55, in its league opener earlier on Sunday.

“It was a real opportunity for us here today,” Floyd said.  “We didn’t take advantage of it and we’ve got to go back on the road for two more.”

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