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Old Dominion Dominates Miners 82-33

NORFOLK, VA. – Old Dominion stifled UTEP into 27.5 percent shooting, cruising to an
82-33 victory over the Miners on Saturday night at the Constant Center.

The Miners (8-18, 3-11 C-USA) made 14-of-51 shots and 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) from
three-point range. UTEP also committed 17 turnovers, leading to 20 points for the
Monarchs (21-5, 12-2 C-USA).

“We played a far superior team on the road tonight,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil
Johnson said. “Obviously it showed in the score. I’m still disappointed in the
fact that we just didn’t have a good start. Turnovers were brutal and you can’t do
that against a team like this. They convert every turnover into a basket and dunks.
Obviously the glass was an issue when Matt [Willms] went down. There’s not much
there in the frontline to go rebound. Tirus [Smith] is still trying to get in

Willms was limited to nine minutes before leaving the game. He had an ice pack on
his knee in the second half. Smith fouled out in 12 minutes. Paul Thomas battled
inside. He was the only Miner in double figures with 10 points in 24 minutes, and
he also paced UTEP with six rebounds. The Miners were outrebounded 43-32.

The Monarchs bolted to a 12-2 lead as the Miners missed seven of their first eight
shots. With his team trailing 7-0, Johnson made a wholesale lineup substitution
with Jake Flaggert, Kobe Magee, Tirus Smith, Trey Touchet and Trey Wade all coming
in with 17:22 on the clock. But the Miners didn’t fare much better against ODU’s
stout defense the rest of the half. UTEP finished the period trailing 32-14,
including a buzzer-beating three by Magee right before the break.

The Miners shot 27.3 percent (6-for-22) from the field over the opening 20 minutes.
ODU shot just 43.8 percent (14-for-32) but scored 10 points off 10 UTEP turnovers,
many on transition dunks.

The second half was another mighty struggle for the Miners after they pulled within
15 (37-22) on a layup by Omega Harris with 16:36 to go. It got away from them as
Old Dominion built the lead to 49. The Monarchs scored 50 points in the second half
and, for the second straight game, got going from three-point range. After making
15 triples on Thursday against UTSA, ODU hit 12 on Saturday – including nine in the
second half.

Randy Haynes led the Monarchs with 24 points, while Ahmad Caver had 18 along with
seven assists and no turnovers. Caver and Brandan Stith both had three steals.

“We’re going to throw this one in the garbage can and try to get home and play
better,” Johnson said.

The Miners will complete their 2017-18 home schedule next week against LA Tech
(Thursday) and Southern Miss (Saturday). Tip-off for both games is 7 p.m. MT.

Old Dominion Rally Sends Game into OT; Miners Fall 56-52

NORFOLK, Va.- UTEP held Old Dominion to 34 percent shooting and controlled the boards (43-31) but the home side got things going late to down the Miners, 56-52, in overtime Saturday afternoon.

The Miners (14-11, 5-7 C-USA) led by 13 (46-33) with 6:21 to play in regulation before the Monarchs (8-19, 6-17 C-USA) peeled off 10 consecutive points to cut the deficit to three with 54 seconds left. Faith Cook knocked down a pair of free throws to put UTEP up by five (48-43) but ODU got a 3-pointer, a steal, and then a lay-up to forge the first tie of the tilt (48-48) with 21 seconds remaining. Najala Howell’s jumper at the buzzer rimmed out to send the contest to overtime.

ODU scored the first five points of overtime to secure its initial lead of the game. The Miners got on the board with a pair of Howell free throws to get within three (53-50) but could get no closer the rest of the way.

After shooting 41.1 percent (14-34) over the first three quarters of play, UTEP was a combined 2-16 (12.5 percent) during the fourth quarter and overtime. The Miners also had eight of their 20 turnovers in that stretch, which afforded ODU the opportunity to rally back.

“I just feel bad for our team because I thought we played great for about three-and-a half quarters,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We let the momentum and the crowd affect us late. We battled so hard; I love my team to death and deserved to win that game today.”

Tamara Seda posted her 12th double-double (11 points, 14 rebounds to lead the Miners. Cook (10 points, five assists) and Zuzaana Puc (10 points) hit double figures as well while Howell finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Alexander added six points and nine boards.

Kelly Loftus came off the bench to pour in 22 points to lead the way for ODU while Victoria Morris added 11 points. MaKayla Timmons contributed seven points and a game-high eight assists.

The two sides traded triples on their respective opening possessions before the Miners ripped off 10 straight points to grab a 13-3 advantage with 3:43 to play in the first half. Cook hit a pair of 3-pointers in the sequence, while Puc (four points) and Zec (three points) also got involved. ODU halted it by splitting a pair of free throws and then knocking down a jumper to get within six (13-6) but the Miners scored the final four points of frame to secure a 17-6 lead through 10 minutes of action.

ODU tallied the first three points of the second quarter but the Miners ripped off seven consecutive points to surge ahead by 15 (24-9) with 6:19 left in the half. ODU blitzed back with a 6-0 run in a span of just 38 seconds to get the margin down to single digits (24-15). After UTEP extended the lead back to 14 (29-15), the Monarchs peeled off nine straight points over the next four minutes to climb within five (29-24). UTEP halted the surge while regaining some momentum with a traditional 3-point play from Seda to make it 32-24 UTEP heading to halftime.

UTEP had a quick start to the third quarter, extending its lead to 13 (37-24) just two minutes into the frame. The two sides went back-and-forth the rest of the period, allowing the Miners to carry an 11-point cushion (44-33) into the final period of play.

The defense by both squads stole the show early in the fourth quarter, with both teams going scoreless for more than three-and-a half minutes at the onset of the frame. Alexander ended the drought by knocking down a jump shot from the top of the key. UTEP then went cold while ODU found its rhythm to battle back in the eventual OT victory.

UTEP will return to action when it plays host to UTSA at 7 p.m. MST Friday.

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Thomas’ Jumper, Last-Second Steal Seals Miner Victory over Charlotte 87-86

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Paul Thomas hit the go-ahead jumper with 2.6 seconds left, and UTEP topped Charlotte 87-86 on Thursday at Halton Arena for its first road win of the season.

“We ran a little stagger for Isiah [Osborne] to come off, thinking that they would come to Isiah and Paul was going to slip towards the ball and sure enough, he got free and went strong to the basket,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.

The Miners (8-17, 3-10 C-USA) took a major step towards a berth in the Conference USA Championship in a wild basketball game. UTEP led by as many as 22 points in the first half, fell behind by seven with about six minutes to go, then rallied past the 49ers (5-19, 1-12 C-USA).

“It was a crazy game,” Johnson said. “They had a guy [Luka Vasic] that had made one three in conference play and he makes four tonight. They made their run by hitting threes and really, we were helping off those guys and not expecting it but they looked like Reggie Miller out there shooting the ball. They came back and when teams make a run at you, you get a little tight and that’s what happened. We just wanted to keep scoring and keep grinding and we had three or four big stops in the last two minutes.”

Both teams were hot from long range, as UTEP made 11-of-20 from beyond the arc and Charlotte was 14-for-24. But the Miners, 9-for-12 from three-point territory in the first half, cooled off to 2-for-8 over the final 20 minutes and Charlotte stayed hot throughout.

The Miners played about as well as can be in the first eight minutes, rolling out to a 29-7 lead. UTEP started 10-for-13 from the field, 5-for-5 from three-point range and 4-for-4 from the line.

Charlotte scored the next seven points – all from Andrien White — to get within 15 (29-14). But the Miners responded with an 11-4 spurt, including seven straight points by Paul Thomas, to match their largest lead of the half at 40-18.

After the 49ers closed the gap to 13 (42-29), Kobe Magee hit back-to-back triples off the bench to push the lead to 19. But Charlotte ended the period with a 16-5 run, and pulled within eight (53-45) at the break. Austin Ajukwa, averaging 7.8 points per game, scored 13 of the 49ers’ last 16 points in the half. He finished with a season-high 24, and scored 22 of Charlotte’s 32 points at the end of the first half and beginning of the second.

Jon Davis’ jumper with 15:24 remaining put Charlotte ahead 63-61, its first lead since 2-0. The next several minutes were nip and tuck until the 49ers gained some separation with a 9-3 run, ending with a three-pointer by Jaylan McGill and an 82-75 lead with 5:59 to go.

But the Miners persevered when the situation appeared dire.

“That’s my biggest challenge, to keep the guys relaxed and play hard and keep them competitive,” Johnson said. “I’m really proud of the team because we had a great practice last night and came and fought our butts off here today. It was a great basketball game. I give Charlotte credit. They played too. It was as hard fought of a game as we’ve seen this season.”

Charlotte scored four points in the final 5:58 with one field goal and the Miners went to work on the offensive end, outscoring the 49ers 12-4 and finally regaining the lead on Thomas’ game winner.

Evan Gilyard scored a career-high 22 points, and Osborne added 21 for the Miners. Thomas recorded his second straight double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

“We started Evan tonight for two reasons,” Johnson said. “He was great in practice last night. But defensively on Davis, he did a pretty good job until he got in foul trouble. And Isiah, we’ve seen him in the past where he can really shoot it and drive it. We tried to get him more involved tonight.”

White scored 21 points for Charlotte and Davis had 12.

The Miners will continue their road trip at Old Dominion on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. MT, and the game will be streamed live on ESPN3.

Marshall Edges UTEP 66-64

HUNTINGTON, WV- Katarina Zec put up 20 points to go along with a career-high nine rebounds to pace a quartet of Miners in double figures but UTEP was edged, 66-64, at Marshall Thursday evening.

The Thundering Herd (8-17, 2-10 C-USA) led for 33 minutes of the contest, including being up four (63-59) with 1:30 to play in regulation.

Najala Howell came up with an offensive rebound and putback to make it a two-point tilt. The Miners (14-10, 5-6 C-USA) got a stop and had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead, but Howell’s runner in the lane rimmed out.

Marshall connected on three straight free throws to go up by five (66-61) with nine seconds left. Zec drilled a 3-pointer to get the Miners within two (66-64) but they were unable to get a steal or force a jump ball on the ensuing in-bounds play as time expired.

UTEP shot a better percentage (22-49, 44.9 percent) than Marshall (24-55, 43.6 percent) and easily won the boards, 38-24, but it was done in by 19 turnovers that led to 18 Thundering Herd points.

“We didn’t put a good product on the floor tonight and weren’t ready to play,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I’m disappointed with that. We just didn’t play well enough to win. We had opportunity after opportunity. It wasn’t our night.”

Howell (15 points), Tamara Seda (12 points, eight rebounds) and Jordan Alexander (11 points, five boards) buoyed the play of Zec but no one else on the team scored more than two points.

Marshall was led by Talequia Hamilton (22 points, seven rebounds) and Shayna Gore (20 points, four assists).

It was a sluggish start to the game for both squads with Marshall holding a 7-6 edge five-and-a half minutes into the contest. The Thundering Herd scored the next four points in the tilt to secure a five-point cushion (11-6) with 2:27 left in the frame. A lay-up by Zuzanna Puc followed by two free throws from Howell trimmed the deficit to one (11-10) but Marshall was able to reinstate a five-point margin (17-12) through 10 minutes of action.

The Miners utilized an 8-2 run over the first four minutes of the second quarter to take their first lead of the game (20-19) and prompt a timeout by the Thundering Herd. A triple by Zec, off a feed from Rachel Tapps, put UTEP up 23-21 with 5:14 left in the period. Marshall struck back, closing the stanza on a 7-2 push to put UTEP down three (28-25) heading to the locker room.

UTEP had a solid start to the third quarter, outscoring Marshall, 11-6, over the first four-and-a half minutes to secure a 36-34 advantage with 5:31 left in the frame. The Thundering Herd countered by unleashing a 9-0 run to put the Orange and Blue down seven (43-36) with 2:37 to play. Alexander put an end to that by splitting a pair of free throws before making a lay-up to get the Miners within four (43-39). A lay-up by Gore afforded Marshall a six-point edge (45-39) after three quarters of play.

The Miners received back-to-back baskets to make it a two-point game early in the fourth quarter but Marshall drilled a corner triple to push the margin to five (48-43) with 8:57 remaining in regulation. UTEP struck back with its own 5-0 run to tie the tilt at 48.

The two sides traded scores the next several minutes before consecutive turnovers by the Miners allowed Marshall to go up by five (62-57) with 2:57 to play. The Orange and Blue regrouped and eventually gave themselves the chance to tie or go back ahead but it wasn’t in the cards.

The Mines will now venture to play at Old Dominion at 12 p.m. MST/2 p.m. EST Saturday. Brandon Cohn will have the call of the game on 600 ESPN El Paso.


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LA Tech Edges Miners At Home 65-62

Tamara Seda poured in 23 points while Katarina Zec (15 points) and Zuzanna Puc (13 points) also hit double figures in scoring but visiting LA Tech snuck past UTEP, 65-62, at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.

The Miners (14-9, 5-5 C-USA) led by one (33-32) at the half but the Lady Techsters (15-9, 6-5 C-USA) opened up the second half on a 14-2 run to surge out by 11 (46-35) with 7:03 to play in the period. As it has done all year long, UTEP regrouped and attempted to mount a rally.

It wrapped a 7-0 run around the third and fourth-quarter break to get within three with 9:01 remaining in regulation. The Miners cut it to two on a pair of occasions but never could climb all the way back. A desperation off-balanced 3-point shot from Zuzanna Puc hit the side of the rim as time expired, allowing LA Tech to hold on for the win.

“It was a fun game to be a part of and I’m really proud of our team because I thought we battled really hard in this game,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We were never out of it; we did play poorly in the third quarter but we sort of found a way to dig out of that hole. We’ve done that all year where we get down but don’t get out.”

UTEP shot a better percentage (46.2-42.6) than LA Tech, hit more overall field goals (24-23) and held a slight advantage on the boards (32-31) but the Lady Techsters nailed 8-18 from distance compared to the Miners’ 2-11 to make up for those areas.

The Miners had big games from Seda, Zec and Puc but no one else on the squad scored more than six points. Faith Cook contributed through her passing with a season-high tying six assists.

LA Tech was paced by a double-double from Alexus Malone (21 points, 11 rebounds) while Kierra Anthony (15 points) and Taylor Stahly (10 points) chipped in as well.

It was back-and-forth over the first three minutes with the Miners leading by one (6-5) before the Lady Techsters peeled off seven straight points go up by six (12-6). UTEP struck back with six unanswered to pull even with 1:10 left in the period but the visitors knocked down a triple to carry a three-point cushion (15-12) into the second quarter.

A free throw followed by a transition lay-up off a steal reinstated a six-point edge (18-12) for LA Tech 30 seconds into the second frame. The Miners went to work and began to chip away at the deficit, and evened the ledger with a lay-up by Seda off a sweet feed from Roeshonda Patterson. After LA Tech went back ahead by four (26-22) the Miners unleashed a 9-2 run to surge out to a 31-28 lead with 1:58 to play in the half. It remained a 3-point cushion (33-30) in the waning seconds but the Lady Techsters got an offensive putback to inch within one (33-32) through 20 minutes of action.

LA Tech had an exceptional start to the third quarter, ripping off an 14-2 run to surge ahead by 11 (46-35) with 6:46 to play in the frame. Two free throws by Zec were followed by a jumper from Puc to get the Orange and Blue within seven (46-39) but the visitors regained a double-digit advantage thanks to a triple. UTEP went back to work and reduced the differential to five (49-44) only to have LA Tech counter with its own 5-0 push to go back up by 10 (54-44) late in the period. Puc banked home a runner in the lane to make it an eight-point contest (54-46) heading to the fourth quarter.

Needing to christen the final frame well, the Miners did just that. Patterson drilled a triple followed a Seda lay-up off an outstanding pass from fellow post Puc. The 5-0 spurt in the span of just longer than a minute brought the Orange and Blue to within three (54-51), prompting a timeout by LA Tech. UTEP continued to battle following the resumption of play, but LA Tech made just enough plays to hold on for the narrow win.

UTEP will return to action when it opens up a two-contest roadswing by playing at Marshall at 4 p.m. MST/6 p.m. EST Thursday. Brandon Cohn will have the call for the game on 600 ESPN El Paso. It will also be streamed live on (subscription required).

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Gallery+Story: Missed Free Throws Add Up as UTSA Upends UTEP 63-59

The UTEP Miners went toe-to-toe with red-hot UTSA on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center. But on a night where neither team could find its aim at the free throw line, the Miners missed 18 foul shots and dropped a 63-59 decision to the Roadrunners.

“You can point to so many things,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “I’m proud that we shot 34 free throws. But making 16, if you make five extra free throws, you win the game. And that was part of the deal. We got in the bonus real early, I think with 14 minutes to go, maybe as quick as we have all season. And I was really happy, so I said ‘Let’s go get fouled.’ And we did. But you’ve got to make them.”

That, combined with another sluggish offensive performance, sent UTEP (7-17, 2-10 C-USA) to its sixth straight loss, while surging UTSA (14-11, 7-5 C-USA) won its fourth in a row.

It was anybody’s ball game with 2:18 left and the Roadrunners leading 57-53, but UTSA was just a little bit better down the stretch.

“With two minutes to go I said the team that is tougher, the team that doesn’t foul, and doesn’t turn it over will go win this game,” Johnson said. “We turned it over and we fouled them.”

After Trey Touchet’s layup made it a four-point game, the Roadrunners scored the next four points – including a dagger of a three-pointer from Deon Lyle with 55 seconds left. Lyle scored 18 points with five threes, including four in the second half.

The Miners still had life when Isiah Osborne was fouled on a three-point attempt with nine seconds left. He made two of three to cut it to two (61-59), but Giovanni De Nicolao put it away on two free throws of his own with five seconds remaining.

UTSA finished 11-of-22 at the line.

UTEP had its biggest lead of the game, 21-15, on a three-pointer by Tirus Smith with 10:36 left in the first half. But the Miners went cold the remainder of the period, getting outscored 16-7. UTEP missed nine of its last 10 shots to close out the half.

The Miners fell behind by six (40-34) early in the second half. UTEP battled back, and when Osborne hit a three with 10:57 to play, the Miners led 48-46. Similar to the first half, UTEP endured another long dry spell and scored three points over the next eight and a half minutes. By the time they snapped out of their funk, they were down 57-51 and under three minutes remained.

“They made some big shots down the stretch,” Johnson said. “We got caught in a couple of switches, we started switching screen and roll and we didn’t do it and we paid a heavy price from Lyle. He knocks down five threes, he came in and just drilled us. I thought we had some guys compete tonight, I really did. We didn’t play particularly well.”

The Miners employed their 15th lineup of the season with Matt Willms starting for the first time in three weeks, and Evan Gilyard starting with Kobe Magee for the first time. Willms played 24 minutes and contributed 12 points with seven rebounds. Tirus Smith returned after missing six games with a knee injury and played five first-half minutes, scoring five points.

“It was good to have Matt back,” Johnson said. “Tirus gave us five minutes and it wasn’t too bad given that he has been out for three weeks. I think we’ll get better with those two guys back in the lineup and playing as they get back in shape.”

Omega Harris came off the bench for the first time in 57 games and was held scoreless for the first time since Feb. 28, 2015 at Southern Miss. He had scored in his previous 83 games. Harris took only three shots. Paul Thomas picked up his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and San Antonio native Magee added 11 points.

The Miners attempted 25 three-point shots, making seven.

“That’s a lot of threes,” Johnson said. “Half of our shots are threes again and I don’t like that. Some of them were late, I’d say eight or 10 were in the last minute or half because we were down three so we launched a few. We had to. But still, that’s too many.”

UTEP was outrebounded 48-35 as Nick Allen snared nine boards for the Roadrunners.

“Their rebounding total was a result of our poor free throw shooting and our poor three-point shooting,” Johnson said.

Byron Frohnen scored 12 points, De Nicolao 10 and Jhivvan Jackson 10 for UTSA.

The Miners will be on the road for four of their last six games, starting on Thursday (Feb. 15) at Charlotte. Tip-off is 5 p.m. MT and the game can be seen on ESPN3.

“Our goal is to get in the [Conference USA] tournament,” Johnson said. “It’s not out of reach at all. This was a big game to try to win and help our cause. But we’ve got six left and they’ll all be tough games. Four of them are on the road, and two are tough home games. So it won’t be easy by any stretch. But hopefully we have enough fight in us left to go make that run to get in the tournament.”

Photos by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

Miners To Begin C-USA Stretch Drive at Home Versus UTSA Saturday

Seven games. That’s all that stands between the UTEP men’s basketball team and the Conference USA Tournament, which tips off on March 7 in Frisco.

The Miners need wins to get to the tournament. With league heavyweights UAB, Middle Tennessee, WKU and Marshall in the rear view mirror, opportunities for victories are ahead. The Miners will be on the road for four of the last seven league games. They are winless on the road this season. Which makes the few remaining home games – starting on Saturday versus UTSA at 7 p.m. – very important.

The Miners (7-16, 2-9 C-USA) had the Roadrunners (13-11, 6-5 C-USA) down 21-5 in the first matchup between the teams on Jan. 20 in San Antonio. But Matt Willms went down due to injury, and UTSA rallied for a 65-61 win.

Since then UTSA has gotten on a roll, winning its last three games versus UAB on the road (82-70), and Marshall (81-77) and WKU (74-63) at home. The Miners, idle since dropping a 74-65 decision to the Herd last Saturday, have had plenty of time to prepare for this weekend’s rematch.

“We actually had more practice days this week because you only play one game,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “We have had some good sessions. We’re trying to put a lot into this game, obviously, and correct the mistakes that we made over in San Antonio and look at the good stuff that we did. We got off to a great start over there and played really well for about 30 minutes. We played a great first half and Matt went down and we just tried to hang on to win it. We had a chance down one with 20 seconds to go, and didn’t get a good shot.”

The Miners have been a different team with Willms on the floor. Still dealing with pain in his foot, he played in only the second half of last week’s games versus WKU and Marshall. His role is uncertain for Saturday.

“We talk every day and try to come up with a plan,” Johnson said. “He has not practiced this week at all. I expect him to go a little bit [Friday]. We’ll see how he feels and go from there. But he’ll play Saturday, whether it’s the second half or come in early and rest it. The issue for Matt is when he plays a couple of minutes and then sits. That’s when it seems to start bothering him. So we try to come up with a good plan, and a plan that he likes is to play in the second half.”

The Miners need healthy big men, and they may be getting one back soon in freshman forward Tirus Smith who has missed the last six games with a knee injury.

“He’s getting closer,” Johnson said. “His conditioning will be a factor. His knee pain is better, or less [than what it was]. He looks pretty good and we could really use him, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes for foul trouble or foul situations. As Matt went down in the last game in San Antonio, Paul [Thomas] picked up three fouls in 30 seconds. And so we had to sit him down and really had Trey Wade and Jake Flaggert as our interior guys. It happened at Middle Tennessee, and that’s a game you don’t want that to happen without Tirus and Matt Willms in the game. They just overwhelmed us physically and that’s my biggest concern, is how physical can we play on the front line and go rebound. Obviously, having Tirus back would really help us.”

Another freshman who has played a key role for the Miners of late is Evan Gilyard, who has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games (13.9 ppg).

“He’s the one guy that has breakdown ability on our team,” Johnson said. “As we get into the bonus especially, we’re really trying to go get fouled as much as possible and we would be foolish not to do that. He’s the guy that I think gets fouled better than anybody on our team. He has that second gear that can get by people and get in the lane. He’s not afraid of contact, which I love about him. He’s really probably our best on-ball defender right now, too. He’s come a long way this season. I’m really proud of him. He’s been a really good competitor. He has been a guy out here in practice every single day working. He is buying into film. So even though he’s just a freshman, I really feel like he has probably come as far as anybody on this team.”

Another impact newcomer for the Miners this season has been Isiah Osborne, who leads the team in scoring for league games only (11.4 ppg). But Osborne has struggled with his shot over the last few contests.

“He has been kind of in and out with some illness,” Johnson said. “He has been weak. I think he’s back ready to go. He did not play well on the road trip to UAB and Middle. He knows that. He wants to play well. In fact, he came to me and talked to me about it. He said ‘Coach, that won’t happen again’ and I believe that. But listen, I don’t fault any player for missing shots. He missed a lot of shots. That’s not my number one thing. My number one thing is just play with tremendous effort and go defend. And if we can do that, there will be nights where we don’t shoot it particularly well but stay in the game with a chance to win.”

The Miners still have time to get on a roll, to get into the C-USA Tournament, to give themselves a chance to win a conference title. And Johnson believes his team has a run left in it.

“I don’t think we’re that far off, and here’s why,” he said. “First of all, there’s nobody that wants to win more than the coaching staff here. We really are trying to fight to figure out a way to get this turned around and get our players playing as a unit, and as a team. There are moments where it’s beautiful. And then there’s some bad [moments]. We just haven’t put together a 40-minute game. There have been times where we look like a great defensive team, and there are times where we look like a very, very poor defensive team.

“I thought both of these games last week were winnable. I don’t think we came out with the fire that we needed to, from the start, in both of those games. I don’t think Marshall and Western Kentucky did, either. They were both right there to be taken for a win. We didn’t play particularly well, and I don’t think we came out of the gates hard enough and tough enough. We have in the past. Really, at UTSA was one of our better starts, but these last two, not so much. We’ve got to get that corrected and just come out [and play]. And you can’t ease into the game. You come out playing from the opening tip.”

Saturday’s game is “Military Appreciation Night.” All military receive discounted tickets with valid I.D. at the UTEP Ticket Center. Regular UTEP ticket prices start at just $8. The UTEP Ticket Center phone number is (915) 747-5234.

UTEP Powers Past UTSA For 66-53 Road Victory

SAN ANTONIO – Najala Howell (career-high tying 23 points, career-high 13 rebounds), Tamara Seda (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Katarina Zec (17 points, four rebounds) all had big days to help lift UTEP past homestanding UTSA, 66-53, Sunday afternoon.

The Miners (14-8, 5-4 C-USA) led by four (48-44) with six minutes to play in the contest before Howell took over. She ripped off 10 consecutive points to give UTEP its largest lead in the game (58-44) with 3:43 left in regulation and the Roadrunners (4-17, 2-8 C-USA) couldn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way. The effort afforded UTEP its first victory in San Antonio in four years.

“Obviously we didn’t play our ‘A-game’ today but I’m so proud that we were able to guard them,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I’m really proud of our kids, they’re resilient and they’re tough.”

The Miners shot 43.9 percent (25-57) from the floor, including nailing 6-16 (37.5 percent) from distance, in addition to crushing UTSA on the boards (47-29). The home side was held to 33.8 percent (23-68) shooting and finished 0-9 from beyond-the-arc.
Howell, Seda and Zec accounted for 59 of UTEP’s 66 points in the game. Jordan Alexander pitched in two points but did have seven rebounds. UTSA was led by Marie Benson’s 20 points.

UTEP had good energy early, and when Faith Cook found Seda in transition for a lay-up it led, 7-2, with 6:33 to play in the frame. It remained a five-point cushion (9-4) before the Miners went cold offensively with a scoreless stretch of more than five minutes to end the quarter. UTSA took advantage to score the final six points of the frame and lead, 10-9, through 10 minutes of action.

The Roadrunners added another score early in the second quarter to make it 12-9. UTEP tightened things up defensively and then got its offense back on track with three consecutive triples sandwiching a UTSA lay-up. The 9-2 push put the Miners back ahead, 18-14, with 6:28 to play in the period while also forcing the home side to call timeout. The stoppage paid dividends for the Roadrunners, who responded with six straight points to pull back ahead by two (20-18). The two sides traded scores over the next several minutes, with UTEP eventually ending up on top (27-24) heading to the locker room.

After UTSA got a jumper to get within one (27-26) UTEP responded with five straight points, all courtesy of Zec. She splashed home a triple before securing a defensive board and going coast-to-coast for the score to make it 32-26 with 8:30 to play in the quarter. After UTSA was able to trim the margin to four a mini 5-0 run by the Miners put them up by nine (39-30) with 4:19 to play in the stanza. UTSA counted with six straight points to cut it to three (39-36) but the Miners peeled off five straight points-all by Seda- to go back up by eight. The Roadrunners used back-to-back scores to slice the lead in half but a driving Zec lay-up made it a six-point contest (46-40) after three quarters of play.

It was a four-point game (48-44) with six minutes left in the game before Howell took over. She scored 10 straight points in the contest to suddenly put the Orange and Blue up by 14 (58-44) with three minutes remaining in regulation. She started the stretch with back-to-back lay-ups. After the Miners got another stop, Howell was left open for a corner 3-pointer that was pure. UTSA misfired on its ensuing trip and Howell capped the dominating sequence with a hoop and harm.

The Roadrunners showed good fight by tallying seven consecutive points to cut the lead in half but it was far too little, too late.

The Miners will be back in action when they play host to LA Tech at 1 p.m. on Saturday. There will be free admission to the contest as part of UTEP’s annual celebration with Nationals Girls and Women in Sports Day.

The game will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso while also being streamed at (subscription required).

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Miners’ Second-Half Rally Falls Short as Marshall Wins 74-65

Evan Gilyard scored 15 of his career-high tying 20 points in the second half, but UTEP couldn’t quite complete the comeback and dropped a 74-65 decision to Marshall in the Haskins Center on Saturday.

UTEP (7-16, 2-9 C-USA) trailed 34-24 following a sluggish first half. The Miners got as close as two in the final minutes before the Herd (15-8, 6-4 C-USA) finished them off late.

“I give our guys credit. We really fought hard to get back and get it cut to [two],” UTEP Interim Coach Phil Johnson said. “We had a really poor start, and the effort and energy was not what it needed to be. So we addressed that at halftime. I thought we came out and played a lot harder and tougher in the second half.”

Johnson was pleased with the Miners’ defensive effort as they held the nation’s no. 8 scoring offense 12 points below its season average. But once again, turnovers reared their ugly head and the 17 giveaways foiled UTEP’s chances at the upset.

“We had way too many turnovers,” Johnson said. “Man, I thought we were going to be a good ball security team and we have taken a big step back in that area over the last couple of games. Wild plays and turnovers really was the game because when we cut it to three, we were right there. I thought we were right there to go take them out, and we couldn’t quite do it.”

The Miners shot 34.5 percent in the first half and made just 2-of-12 three-pointers in falling behind by double digits. UTEP heated up to 46.7 percent shooting in the second half. An 11-4 run trimmed a 36-26 deficit down to 40-37 five minutes into the half. Later, the Miners were down 42-39, 51-48 and 56-53. They finally got it under three when Gilyard drained a three-pointer with 4:04 to go. That made it 61-59.

Darius George answered with a three-point play for Marshall. Gilyard split two foul shots, and it was 64-60 with 2:40 to play. A defensive breakdown left the Herd’s leading scorer, Jon Elmore, wide open and he nailed a huge three for a 67-60 advantage with 2:21 on the clock. The Miners couldn’t recover.

Elmore scored 22 points, C.J. Burks 16 and Adjin Penava 15 for the Herd.

“They put up some tremendous numbers,” Johnson said. “Really, the 74 [points allowed] is a little deceiving because we fouled late. And really, if we didn’t have to foul late it would’ve been in the 60’s. And so I take some pride in that, that a team capable of scoring 130, we hold to the 60’s. And 40 percent [shooting] for that team, and 28 [percent] from three when they shoot 35 [shots] and that’s what they do, that part’s decent. I thought we challenged most of their shots and again, we fought back and the guys tried.”

It was a reversal of fortunes for a UTEP team that has lost four C-USA games when leading at halftime. This time the Miners played well in the second half, but couldn’t overcome a rough start.

“It was really a poor start,” Johnson said. “And the effort was really disappointing, and I made that clear at halftime. I want to be positive with the guys and they responded at half and came out and fought hard. And for the first time in a while, we’ve seen the second half so-called meltdowns, and that really wasn’t the case tonight. It was the first half. And so we did some good things in the second half but it really was the turnovers and the critical mistakes, and we saw that the other night too [against WKU].”

Trey Wade scored nine points, Keith Frazier eight and Omega Harris eight for the Miners. Paul Thomas’ seven rebounds steered UTEP to a 37-37 deadlock on the boards.

It was another closely contested C-USA game – the Miners have been involved in several this season – but in the end, a hard-fought loss.

UTEP will wrap up a three-game homestand next Saturday against UTSA at 7 p.m., looking for a spark that could turn around a challenging season.

“We’ve got some games coming up that we really need to take care of,” Johnson said.

Big Fourth Quarter Lifts UAB Blazers Over Miners 84-64

UTEP went toe-to-toe with Conference-USA leading UAB through three quarters of play before the visitors found another gear in the final frame to pull away for an 84-64 victory at the Don Haskins Center Friday evening.

UAB (18-3, 7-1 C-USA), which led 54-52 heading to the final frame, opened up the fourth quarter on a 16-1 run on the way to outscoring the Miners (13-8, 4-4 C-USA) by a count of 30-12 over the final 10 minutes of action.

Jordan Alexander tallied a career-high 18 points to pace UTEP. She was joined in double figures in scoring by Tamara Seda (10 points, 10 rebounds), Najala Howell (10 points) and Zuzanna Puc (10 points, nine boards) while Katarina Zec pitched in nine points.

The Miners shot 41 percent (25-61) from the floor and finished with 17 assists to only 11 turnovers but they simply didn’t have enough firepower to keep pace with the Blazers for the entire contest. UAB finished at 53.4 percent (31-58), including 47.2 percent (17-36) from beyond-the-arc. Aiding those numbers was shooting a ridiculous 84.6 percent (11-13) in the final 10 minutes of action. Rachael Childress powered the attack for the Blazers with 26 points, including going 8-13 from home-run range. Deanna Kuzmanic (19 points) and Trista Magee (14 points) buoyed her efforts.

“I love my team because we played so well for three quarters and gave ourselves a chance,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We gave ourselves a chance going to the fourth quarter but I kept thinking that escalated quickly because they can really, really shoot the three. Coach Norton does such a great job putting you in defensive rotation where you cannot cover out on their best shooter.”

The Blazers scored the first nine points of the contest before a free throw by Howell got the Miners on the board with 5:14 remaining in the opening quarter. The Miners regrouped, using a 10-4 push to cut the deficit to three (13-10) before UAB drilled its third trey of the frame to double its advantage. UTEP reduced the margin to four (16-12) with a pair of free throws by Howell but a lay-up on an out-of-bounds play to beat the buzzer put it back to six (18-12) through 10 minutes of action.

A jumper by Alexander allowed the Orange and Blue to inch within four again (18-14) early in the second quarter but the Blazers nailed consecutive triples to surge out by 10 (24-14) and force a UTEP timeout. The deficit remained 10 (27-17) with 8:01 to play in the half but UTEP dug deep and began to chip away.

The Miners tallied six straight points off to get within four (27-23) before UAB seemingly reinstated order with a triple to make it 30-23. UTEP had other ideas, though, putting together a half-closing 11-2 run over the final four minutes to vault into the lead (34-32) heading to the locker room. Included in the push was scoring the final eight points in the frame, with a corner triple by Zec with 37 seconds capping the sequence in style.

The two sides traded baskets over the first three minutes of the third quarter before a driving lay-up by Alexander was followed by a 3-pointer from Howell to afford UTEP an eight-point lead (48-36). Now it was UAB’s turn to call timeout with the need to recuperate, which it did out of the break with 10 consecutive points to regain the lead (48-46). The Miners ended the surge with an athletic lay-up from Zuzanna Puc to forge the first tie of the tilt at 48. Puc converted on the ensuing possession to put UTEP back ahead but a little push late in the frame allowed UAB to be up, 54-52, heading to the fourth quarter.

The Blazers found an entirely new level in the fourth quarter. They opened the final frame on a 16-1 run on the way to outscoring the Miners by a count of 30-12 during the period.

UTEP will now travel to face in-state foe UTSA at 1 p.m. MST/2 p.m. CST Sunday. Steve Kaplowitz will be joined by 1966 Texas Western men’s basketball team member Nevil Shed for the call of the contest for 600 ESPN El Paso (online only or through the KROD app). The game will also be streamed live on (subscription required).

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Turnovers Take Toll as Western Kentucky Tops UTEP 72-60

UTEP committed 12 of its 16 turnovers in the second half, with many coming in critical situations down the stretch as WKU escaped the Haskins Center with a 72-60 victory on Thursday.

The Miners (7-15, 2-8 C-USA), opening a three-game homestand, hung with the Hilltoppers (16-6, 8-1 C-USA) throughout. But they coughed up the basketball six times in the last six minutes, including five times over the final 3:35, and that proved to be too much to overcome.

“Their 1-3-1 [zone defense] bothered us,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “I thought we were really prepared for it and worked a lot against it, and I thought we’d make them pay. I really thought we’d go score and not turn it over and we had some critical turnovers. You can’t win with 16 turnovers. We did some good things for about 32 minutes, and unfortunately it’s a 40-minute game.”

UTEP was ahead 32-30 at halftime and took its biggest lead, 42-38, on a three-point play by Omega Harris with 16:35 remaining. WKU responded with a 13-2 run to seize a 51-44 advantage with 12:01 to go on a layup by Lamonte Bearden.

The Miners scored the next nine points, and took their last lead (53-51) on Harris’ jumper with 8:46 to go. The Hilltoppers once again had the answer, reeling off eight unanswered to build a 59-53 cushion on a three-pointer by Justin Johnson with 7:35 to go.

UTEP got within four (64-60) on a free throw by Evan Gilyard with 1:32 remaining, but WKU pitched a shutout the rest of the way and finished it off with dunks by Johnson and Dwight Coleby, and free throws by Bearden.

At one point, the Miners turned it over on three consecutive possessions in a five-point game (62-57) with about five minutes remaining.

“We went through about three weeks averaging seven or eight turnovers, and we got back to getting reckless,” Johnson said.

Four WKU starters scored in double figures, as Johnson led the way with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Harris scored 16 points and Paul Thomas added 10 for the Miners.

WKU shot 50 percent and scored 42 points, including 11 off turnovers, in the second half.

“I’m really disappointed,” Johnson said. “At halftime I really felt like we would go win the game. I felt like they weren’t defending hard enough and I thought we could go score. But we just kind of self-destructed. And I don’t think it’s so much what they did, it’s self-imposed mistakes.”

The Miners will be right back at it on Saturday when they host Marshall at 7 p.m.

Gallery by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

Miners Hope Home Cooking Will Spur C-USA Turnaround

The UTEP men’s basketball team stands 2-7 midway through its Conference USA schedule.  The good news is that there is precedent for a turnaround.

In each of the last three seasons since going to an 18-game league slate, UTEP has posted a 7-2 mark over its final nine conference games.  During that stretch the Miners have gone 14-13 in the first half, and 21-6 in the second half.

So it’s entirely possible that the Miners can change their fortunes over the next month.  They’ll have five of their final nine C-USA games at home, starting this weekend when they’ll entertain two of the top teams in the league – WKU on Thursday at 8, and Marshall on Saturday at 7.

WKU is 7-1 in C-USA, a half-game behind front-running Middle Tennessee and tied with Old Dominion for second place.  The Hilltoppers have a returning second team All-Conference player (Justin Johnson) and a quartet of newcomers – grad transfers Dwight Coleby (Kansas) and Darius Thompson (Virginia), junior Lamonte Bearden (Buffalo transfer) and freshman Taveion Hollingsworth – who combine to average 51.8 points per game.  WKU ranks 19th nationally in field goal percentage (.495).

The Hilltoppers are second in C-USA in field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage (.383), and third in scoring margin (+8.8 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.420).

“They’re going to be very similar to what we saw with Middle Tennessee in the fact that they’re big and they’re very physical,” UTEP Interim Coach Phil Johnson said.  “In fact, they’re probably the most talented team in our league, and that includes Middle Tennessee.  They play a lot different than Middle Tennessee but those two big guys [Johnson and Coleby] are outstanding.  We’ve got to get tougher and get physical real fast.”

The Miners have been competitive in eight of their nine league games, but the absence of Willms proved to be too much to overcome at Middle Tennessee on Saturday.  UTEP was outscored 34-16 in the paint and outrebounded 42-26.  The Blue Raiders shot 58.1 percent in the second half and scored 51 points, continuing a disturbing trend in C-USA play.  In the first half, UTEP opponents have averaged 32 points.  In the second half, they have averaged 43.4 points while shooting 52.9 percent (138-for-261) from the field.

“We’ve got to clamp down.  We’ve got to be better defensively on the road,” Johnson said.  “We’re still learning how to play on the road.  A lot of it is toughness, a lot of it is commitment to defending every possession.  We have shown signs here and there for 14 minutes to 20 minutes, but not 40.”

In five league games (Southern Miss, LA Tech, FIU, UAB, Middle Tennessee), opponents shot 58 percent or better in the second half.  Four of those games were away from El Paso.

“We’re not a real vocal team and as I’ve said many times, we have been pretty decent defensively in the first half up until the Middle Tennessee game,” Johnson said.  “Second half, not as good.  Some of that is talking, some of that is having young guys and not being able to talk.  Every team in the country has that issue.  Some address it and some get better at it and some don’t.  We’ll continue to fight and get better.”

The Miners are hoping to have Willms back this weekend.  Tirus Smith is continuing his rehab from a knee injury but likely won’t return until next week, at the earliest.

UTEP has gotten solid play from freshmen Trey Wade (36 points in the last two games) and Evan Gilyard (70 points in the last five games) of late.  Another freshman, Kobe Magee, leads C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.630) for conference games only.

Sophomore Isiah Osborne is averaging a team-high 13.6 ppg in league action, but struggled on the road trip (2-for-20 from the field) while he was under the weather.  The Miners will need all hands on deck for the last nine conference games, and a three-game homestand is a good place to start.

“[We need to] practice better, and hopefully get healthy too,” Johnson said.  “We need Matt Willms back.  We just got punished inside at Middle Tennessee, really at UAB as well.  Our guys fought pretty hard.  Jake Flaggert was guarding a 6-11 kid at Middle Tennessee.  We had Trey Touchet guarding a 6-8, 250 [player].  Those are all issues.  But they’re not excuses, it’s just a fact.  We need Matt to get healthy and we need to defend better.  We’re taking too many threes.  We’re going to clean that up.”

Thursday marks the Miners’ annual “Noche Latina” game as UTEP will celebrate the Hispanic culture.  Tickets, starting at just $8, are available by calling 747-5234.

UTEP Dumps North Texas 50-48 Sunday Afternoon

DENTON, Tx- UTEP won the boards (34-28) and held North Texas to 35.4 percent (17-48) shooting to grind out a 50-48 road win Sunday afternoon.

The Miners (13-7, 4-3 C-USA) led for nearly 32 minutes of action, got enough stops down the stretch and hit shots in key moments to secure the hard-fought win against the Mean Green (11-9, 2-6 C-USA).

Katarina Zec tallied 11 points in the game, including nailing the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:34 left in regulation. The shot put UTEP up, 48-46, while also wiping away the only second-half lead by North Texas. The margin was one (49-48) when Terriell Bradley, who poured in a game-high 22 points, misfired on a driving jumper in the waning seconds.

Jordan Alexander, who tallied eight points to go along with a career-high 13 rebounds, secured the board and was fouled. She split the pair with 0.5 seconds left. North Texas called timeout to advance the ball but its in-bound pass hit the rim and time expired.

Tamara Seda (13 points), Zec and Howell (10 points, seven rebounds) joined forces with Alexander to provide the bulk of the offense.

After shooting 57.9 percent (11-19) in the opening half to surge out to a 34-25 lead at the break, the Miners finished 3-20 (15.0 percent) over the final 20 minutes. UTEP compensated for that by nailing 7-10 at the free-throw line in the half, which put them at 16-22 (72.7 percent) for the contest. Conversely the Mean Green were just 10-18 on charity stripe tosses.

“It went down to the wire and I’m just really impressed with our team’s resiliency one more time,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They just kept getting rebound after rebound. I was really pleased with our defense. We were trying to hold them under 50-that was our goal-and we kept them to 48. I like the way our team is guarding.”

The two sides traded scores early in the contest, with the Mean Green holding a 10-7 advantage with 4:42 to play in the opening frame. Alexander drilled a straight away 3-pointer to tie the tilt, which was followed by a pair of free throws from Zuzanna Puc to make it a mini 5-0 run. The effort gave the Miners their first lead (12-10) of the game. After UNT tied the tilt UTEP scored five of the next six points in the frame before a late Mean Green free throw made it 17-14 through 10 minutes of action.

The Mean Green clawed within two (18-16) within the first minute of the second quarter before the Orange and Blue started to come alive. They ripped off seven straight points, with Howell providing five of them, to vault out to a nine-point cushion (25-16) with 7:37 to play in the half. It was back-and-forth for the remainder of the period, allowing UTEP to maintain a nine-point advantage (34-25) heading to halftime.

UNT had a quick start to the third quarter, tallying six consecutive points to trim the Miner margin to three (34-31) with 8:27 to play in the period. Zec put an end to that by draining a 3-pointer from the top of the circle. After UTEP got a stop, Jordan Jenkins knocked down a triple of her own to reestablish UTEP’s nine-point halftime lead (40-31).

The Mean Green didn’t wither away, but instead went on a 10-2 run over the next seven minutes to cut UTEP’s lead to one (42-41). Seda sunk a pair of free throws with five seconds left to put the Orange and Blue up by three (44-41) following three quarters of action.

Both teams locked things up defensively in the fourth quarter, with the two squads combining for three points over the first six minutes of action in the frame. The result was the Miners clinging to a 45-43 lead with 3:26 remaining in regulation before the Mean Green’s Brittany Smith nailed a triple. UTEP didn’t flinch, as on the ensuing possession Zec buried a trey to put the Miners back on top by two (48-46) with 2:34 left.

UTEP got a free throw by Seda to extend its edge to three and then got three stops on the final four possessions by North Texas. The lone basket in the stretch was by Bradley with 21 seconds to play to cut the lead to one but UTEP dug deep and held one.

The Orange and Blue will return home to challenge co-league leader UAB at 7 p.m. MST Friday. The game will be streamed live on the beIN Sports app, and a TV tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening.

It will also be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call.

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Middle Tennessee Tops Miners 81-50

MURFREESBORO, TN. – After scoring 75 points or more in three of their first four Conference USA road games, the UTEP Miners hit a wall on Saturday at Middle Tennessee and dropped an 81-50 decision to the Blue Raiders.

UTEP (7-14, 2-7 C-USA) was held to 17 points, its fewest in a half this season, over the opening 20 minutes. The Miners made 6-of-27 shots (22.2 percent) and 3-of-15 three-pointers (20 percent) in the first half. Fortunately league-leading Middle Tennessee (16-5, 8-1 C-USA) wasn’t much better offensively during that juncture and took only a 13-point lead (30-17) into the break.

The second half, however, was a different story, as the Blue Raiders heated up and the Miners couldn’t keep pace. Middle Tennessee shot 58.1 percent in the second half and outscored UTEP 51-33.

With Matt Willms sidelined due to a foot problem, Tirus Smith still out with a knee injury, and Paul Thomas picking up four fouls in the first half, the Miners didn’t stand a chance inside. Middle Tennessee outscored UTEP 34-16 in the paint and had a 13-4 edge in second-chance points behind a 42-26 rebound margin.

“It’s difficult without any of our big guys, and Paul was in foul trouble so you’ve got Jake [Flaggert] at the five and Trey Wade, who’s not a five, defending a seven footer. That’s very difficult,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “But other than that, I want to just go play hard and compete. We have been doing that for the most part and tonight we had a letdown in that area. It’s just one of those nights where nothing was good. We didn’t guard anybody and we didn’t get to the basket until late. We shot way too many threes in the first half. We were just poor tonight against a real good basketball team.”

The Miners, who never led, fell behind 7-0 early. They pulled within four (10-6) on a three-pointer by Omega Harris with 15:10 remaining in the half. Middle Tennessee went on another 7-0 run to go in front 17-6. Beginning with the 9:12 mark of the first half, the Blue Raiders maintained a double-digit lead.

It was a 15-point cushion (40-25) in the opening minutes of the second half before Middle Tennessee strung together seven consecutive points once again. That made it 47-25 and the Blue Raiders led by as many as 36 points the rest of the way.

“We told the guys [at halftime], we played so poorly and we’re down 13,” Johnson said. “We felt like we were in the game and just three or four stops and you get it down to six or four and you’re right there. Man, they’re good. They shoot it, they drive, they’re big and they throw it in the post. We just didn’t have an answer. We just couldn’t stop them.”

Trey Wade led UTEP with 14 points and nine rebounds, and Evan Gilyard scored all 13 of his points in the second half while adding three steals. The Miners shot 33.3 percent and went 5-for-21 (23.8 percent) from downtown.

Brandon Walters led Middle Tennessee with 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Blue Raiders didn’t need a big night from Nick King, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, or Giddy Potts, who scored seven. Karl Gamble accounted for 12 of Middle Tennessee’s 36 bench points.

UTEP has reached the midway point of the C-USA schedule and has road trips to Middle Tennessee, UAB and LA Tech in its rear view mirror. Five of the final nine league games will be played in the friendly confines of the Don Haskins Center.

The Miners will return to El Paso for three consecutive C-USA contests. UTEP will host WKU on Thursday (Feb. 1) in the “Noche Latina” game at 8 p.m., Marshall on Saturday (Feb. 3) at 7 p.m., and UTSA on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. before hitting the road once again.

“We’ll be happy [to be home],” Johnson said. “I hope the fans will come out and hang in there with us and watch us. We’re going to obviously try to give a better effort than we gave tonight.”

Rice Bombs Miners with 3’s En Route to 56-42 Win

HOUSTON – UTEP held Rice to its second-lowest scoring output of the season but couldn’t generate enough offense in a 56-42 road setback Friday evening.

The Owls (15-3, 5-1 C-USA) rode a barrage of 3-pointers (12-27) to fuel their offensive effort against the Miners (12-7, 3-3 C-USA). At the other end of the court the Orange and Blue connected on 31.5 percent (17-54) from the floor, including 3-13 (23.1 percent) from distance. Rebounding also went in favor of the home side, 37-32.

UTEP tried to compensate for that by committing a season-low 10 turnovers and holding a 22-14 advantage for points in the paint but it wasn’t enough to make up for the off shooting night. Tamara Seda led the way for the Miners with 13 points, which tied as the most by any player on the court, while Jordan Alexander pitched in nine points.

Erica Ogwumike led the way for the Owls with a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds). She was joined in double figures by Nicole Iademarco (13 points) and Wendy Knight (11 points).

“We played some of the best defense that we’ve played all year,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I thought we guarded to a plan. The issue was for us tonight was that we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. We’ve got to figure out a way to get better offensively and quickly because we’ve got a game Sunday. Anytime this team is willing to guard like that we’re going to have a chance to win.”

The Miners led 2-0 three minutes into the contest before the Owls started to find their rhythm by tallying 11 straight points. The surge forced Baker to call timeout. Seda stopped the sequence and a nearly four-minute scoring drought with an offensive putback. The deficit remained at nine (15-6) with 1:13 to play in the period but the Miners accounted for the final four points in the frame to trim the margin to five (15-10) through 10 minutes of action.

The Owls knocked down a three to start the second quarter before lay-ups from Seda and Zuzanna Puc brought the Orange and Blue to within four (18-14) with 7:31 to play in the half. The score stayed that way for almost the next four minutes but the Owls hit three triples in the span of 59 seconds to extend their advantage to 13 (27-14) with 2:58 remaining in the stanza. Seda split a pair of free throws to account for the first points by the Miners in more than five minutes. Rice answered with a lay-up in the waning seconds to carry a 14-point cushion (29-15) into the locker room.

Rice struck first in the third quarter with a lay-up to go up by 16 (31-15) before a mini 4-0 Miner run made it a 12-point contest (31-19) with 7:11 to play in the frame. The home side nipped it in the bud with 12 consecutive points, including the first seven by Iademarco, to lead 43-19 with 2:27 left in regulation. Roeshonda Patterson made a driving lay-up in traffic to stop the surge but the damage was substantial.

The Miners hit back-to-back triples to begin the fourth quarter on a high note and reduce the once 25-point disadvantage to 15 (46-31) with 8:38 left in regulation. After Rice knocked down a 3-pointer of its own Seda grabbed an offensive rebound and banked a lay-up off the glass to make it 49-33.

Five straight points by the Owls, though, stopped the surge and essentially wiped out any remaining chances of a comeback. The Miners continued to play hard down the stretch but there was too much ground to make up.

UTEP will wrap up the mini two-game roadswing at North Texas at 2 p.m. MST/3 p.m. CST Sunday. Duke Keith will have the call on 600 ESPN El Paso. The contest will also be live streamed on (subscription required).

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