Efe Odigie (18 points) came up a rebound short of another double-double, Paul Thomas recorded a career-high 17 rebounds and an injured Evan Gilyard came off the bench to lead the Miners with 20 points. But Norfolk State shot 50 percent (24-48) from the field to defeat UTEP, 75-62, on Friday night during the first round of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
“We haven’t gotten real comfortable for whatever reason this year playing against zone,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We spend a lot of time working on our shooting, and we spend a lot of time working on our free-throw shooting. At the end of the day you have to come in and you have to do it in the lights. You have to carry your routine over to the game. Our guard play tonight was not very good, and it was problematic for us. In the first half, we had 12 turnovers against really no pressure, and really against a flat 2-3 defense that wasn’t very good in my opinion. We allowed it to be effective by not scoring the way we needed to against it.”
UTEP will take on Wyoming in the third-place game at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Miners got off to a slow start during the first half, shooting 6-for-23. Though UTEP rebounded to shoot 11-for-22 in the second period, it couldn’t keep up with Norfolk State’s hot shooting. The Miners shot 3-of-19 from three-point territory and 25-for-41 from the free throw line.
After being down 29-23 at the half and 34-25 at the 17:35 mark, the Miners went on a 7-0 run that started with a trio of Gilyard made free throws and back-to-back layups by Odigie to make the score 34-32. But Norfolk State answered with a 10-2 run to take a 44-34 lead and control in the second half. The Spartans would lead by as many as 18 points.
Gilyard made a jumper at the 11:36 mark to make the score 44-39, but that was the closest UTEP would get.
Gilyard played 27 minutes after missing UTEP’s previous contest with an injury. UTEP’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game this season, shot 6-for-11 from the field, while draining all three of the Miners’ treys.
Freshman Nigel Hawkins scored 15 points, his third career double-digit scoring game as he tied a season high in minutes played (37). Hawkins was 7-of-11 from the charity stripe, while tallying five rebounds. Jordan Lathon led the team with three assists and tallied three rebounds. The Miners missed Lathon’s scoring as he finished with one point after averaging over 18 points per game his previous three contests.
The Miners outrebounded their opponent, 40-23, but the Spartans took advantage of 17 turnovers to tally 21 points off those.
Mastadi Pitt led Norfolk State with 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including a 4-for-5 effort from three-point range and Derrik Jamerson chipped in with 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting. The Spartans connected on 11-of-24 three pointers.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
Game one Gallery by Johnny Yturales – El Paso Herald Post