Freshman guard Evan Gilyard scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, leading UTEP to a come-from-behind 78-70 exhibition victory over Sul Ross State on Saturday at the Haskins Center.
The Miners and the Lobos played to a 34-34 deadlock following a first half that featured 30 fouls (18 on UTEP) and 25 free throw attempts. The second half wasn’t much cleaner as the officials rang up 24 more foul calls and the teams went to the line a combined 30 times. Overall there were 54 fouls and 55 free throws on the afternoon.
But the Miners pulled away in the second half behind Gilyard, who was 5-for-7 from the field and 3-for-3 from three-point range in 16 second-half minutes.
“I just came out with more energy [in the second half],” Gilyard said. “I knew the team needed energy on the defensive end so we could pick it up on the offensive end. So I just came out and being the point guard, I led and did my job.”
“We’ve got a long way to go. We know that,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “A lot of drive bys, a lot of turnovers, a lot of fouls. It’s early. Omega [Harris] was playing with a back that’s not so good. We thought about not playing him. Isiah Osborne turned an ankle a couple of days ago. He couldn’t really play. He played about six minutes. It was good for Keith Frazier to get out there in a game situation for the first time in about two and a half years.”
UTEP trailed 40-38 with a little over 17 minutes remaining. But the Miners outscored the Lobos 20-3 over the next five minutes and surged to a 58-41 lead. Gilyard scored 13 points during the run, including back-to-back threes at the 13:25 and 12:46 mark.
Freshman guards Gilyard, Trey Wade (13 points) and Kobe Magee (six points) combined to score 27 of their 38 points in the second half, when they were a combined 10-for-16 from the field and 5-for-7 from outside.
“I think in the first half, everyone was kind of nervous at the beginning. But in the second half, we all told each other in the huddle ‘Let’s turn it up,’” Magee said. “We started picking it up full court on defense, so that was the main thing. We picked it up on defense and that translated to the offensive game.”
Matt Willms tied for team-high scoring honors with 19 points while adding nine rebounds for the Miners, who shot 60 percent (15-for-25) in the second half. UTEP outrebounded Sul Ross State 43-31.
Harris dished out 10 assists for the Miners.
“We need more assists from our point guards and we need a few more post touches and a little better execution, everything that you would expect this time of the year. A little better screen and roll coverage,” Floyd said. “We did no scouting, we just tried to worry about us. It will be good to have a film, and go back and look at the film and see if we can make some strides based on the film.”
UTEP will host Western New Mexico in its second and final exhibition game on Friday at 7 p.m. All exhibition tickets are $8 and $10 and can be purchased by calling 747-5234. UTEP season tickets are also on sale by calling (915) 747-6150.