UTEP connected on a season-high 12 three pointers and registered a season-best 78 percent (14-18) on free throws, as the Miners (5-6) defeated Wyoming (3-9), 76-65, in the consolation game at the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Saturday night in the Don Haskins Center.
“I was really proud of our guys with the way they came out tonight on a short turn around.” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “Our staff did a great job getting our guys prepared in term of the preparation to be here. I thought that we really challenged our guys with today is finishing out this first part of the season the right way with a win. Last night I thought we had the right scheme, we made some shot tonight that we missed yesterday, so what a difference it is to see when your shots go down. We’re going to be fine against the zone defense, we play with a lot of confidence and that will help us down the road.”
After an abysmal night shooting (37.8 percent) the previous game against Norfolk State on Friday, the Miners rebounded and hit 12-of-27 three’s and 25-of-53 overall (47.2 percent) from the field. UTEP also recorded 18 assists, the second most dished out this season.
Efe Odigie recorded his fifth career double-double of his young career, producing 12 points and 11 rebounds, while adding an assist to the stat line.
Evan Gilyard came off the bench for a second consecutive game and gave his squad another 20-point effort on 6-of-10 shooting – all three-point buckets. Gilyard also went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe and recorded four assists, the second most this season.
Nigel Hawkins went into double figures (13 points) for the second consecutive game and fourth time this season. Hawkins hit three three-point shots and went 4-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Jordan Lathon, after a season-low one point on Friday, responded with 10 points, three rebounds and tied for the team lead with four dimes. Lathon scored seven of those points during the second half and five with just under 1:30 to go in the contest.
Paul Thomas also dished out four dimes, while adding 10 points and four rebounds.
The Miners and Cowboys traded punches for the first 10 minutes of the contest. Wyoming took an early 7-1 advantage after a pair of made free throws by A.J. Banks.
The Miners responded with a 7-0 run that started with an Odigie jumper at the 17:53 mark and ended with a Thomas jumper as UTEP took an 8-7 edge.
After the Cowboys reclaimed the lead at 15-13 on two made free throws by TJ Taylor at the midway point of the first period, Ountae Campbell nailed a jumper off an assist by Lathon to tie the game and that started a 9-0 run in which UTEP would take a 22-15 lead and never looked back.
The Miners built the first-half lead to 11 points (32-21) with over three minutes remaining in the half after Hawkins hit a three-point bucket off an assist by Gilyard.
Wyoming, however, wouldn’t go away after UTEP took an 18-point lead (63-45). The Cowboys got within nine points (69-60) with 1:55 remaining in the contest, but the Miners defended well and made their free throws down the stretch.
Campbell made his second consecutive start, playing 23 minutes and chipping in with six points and career highs in assists (three), steals (three) and rebounds (five). Kobe Magee played 10 minutes, contributing with three points and Kaosi Ezeagu scored a pair.
Wyoming was led by potent scorer Justin James’s team-leading 22 points and recorded seven rebounds. Banks added 18 points.
UTEP will open Conference USA play on January 3 at UTSA with tipoff set for 6 p.m. MT.
The Miners will return to the Haskins Center for a three-game home stand as they’ll host UTSA (January 5), North Texas (January 10) and Rice (January 12). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in all three contests.
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – El Paso Herald Post