CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Daryl Edwards led all scorers with 24 points and Souley Boum tallied 20, but it wasn’t enough as UTEP (13-11, 4-7 Conference USA) fell at Charlotte (13-9, 7-4 C-USA), 68-64, on Thursday night in Halton Arena.
“We got off to a great start, the kind of start we’d like to have. We controlled the game for a better part of the game,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We had a couple bad turnovers down the stretch. We gave up some offensive rebounds and struggled with their ball-screen offense.”
The Miners shot 33.3 percent in second half (9-27) after firing 50.0 percent in the first, including a 6-for-13 effort from downtown. Overall in the game, UTEP shot 42.1 percent (24-57) and 34.6 percent (9-26) from the three-point line. Charlotte was efficient on offense, shooting 55.1 percent (27-49). It was the second consecutive game in which UTEP allowed an opponent shot over 50 percent.
UTEP came out of the locker room up 36-31 and built that lead into a 51-41 advantage after Boum made a layup on a fast break after a steal by Bryson Williams. However, the 49ers used a 15-2 run to take a 56-53 lead with 7:37 left in the game. The Miners only turned the ball over six times in the game. However, four of them came during the big 49er run.
Charlotte outrebounded UTEP, 34-24, while the Miners were dominated in the paint for a second consecutive game, being outscored 40-22.
Following an Edwards’s layup at the 6:37 mark, Charlotte clamped down on defense and held the Miners without a field goal for 4:37, while building a seven-point lead (63-56).
Despite the cold shooting, Edwards and Boum combined for a 4-for-4 effort from the free-throw line to make it a 63-60 game. Williams, who only scored eight points on the night, ended the field goal draught and made a layup, making the count 63-62 with 1:48 left in the game.
The Miners and 49ers went back-and-forth down the stretch, and after falling behind three points (65-62) on an Amidou Bamba basket, Lathon made a pair of free throws to make it a one-point contest with 20 seconds remaining.
Jordan Shepard followed with two free throws of his own after being intentionally fouled with 19 seconds to make it a three-point game (67-64). But Williams missed the second of two three-point attempts down the stretch and Jahmir Young clinched the game by hitting one of two free throws to make the count 68-64.
Edwards finished 8-of-12 from the field, including a 5-for-8 effort from downtown. Boum went 4-of-8 from beyond the arc (7-13 overall), while Williams struggled from the field (4-15). Efe Odigie got off to a hot start, making his first three field goals in the first half, but finished 3-for-8 from the field.
Lathon finished with six points and tied his career high with six assists. Eric Vila, Williams and Odigie each led the Miners with six rebounds.
In the first half following a basket by Drew Edwards to give Charlotte a 6-4 lead, Boum started a 12-0 run with a made three-point bucket, while Edwards ended it with a layup on a fast break after a steal by Nigel Hawkins that gave the Miners a 16-6 advantage. Overall, UTEP used a 14-2 run to take an 18-8 lead at the 12:38 mark. Efe Odigie scored six of the 14 points, while Edwards tallied five points.
The 49ers cut the lead to three points (18-15) after a 7-0 spurt. But the Miners answered that with a three by Edwards, who connected on four from downtown Charlotte.
UTEP built a nine-point lead (34-25) after Lathon hit his second field goal of the half, and Boum drained his second trey. UNCC answered with a 6-0 run, but Boum nailed a two-point field goal at the buzzer to give his squad a 36-31 lead at the half.
Lathon, who entered the game 0-for-17 from the field in league play, made his first field goal at the 6:38 mark of the first half.
Young led UNCC with 14 points and eight boards, while Edwards scored 13 points. Bamba (11 points) and Milos Supica (10) also hit double-digit figures.
Up next, UTEP will continue its road trip to Norfolk, Va., to battle Old Dominion (5-6 C-USA) on Saturday; ODU fell to UTSA, 85-81 in overtime, on Thursday night.
The Miners and Monarchs will tipoff at 5 p.m. MT/7 ET in Chartway Arena. The contest can be heard on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” calling the action, while the game will be streamed on ESPN+.