Tae Hardy (16 points) and Mario McKinney Jr. (12 points) each hit double figures in scoring, but sharp 3-point shooting from homestanding DePaul allowed it to dispatch UTEP, 91-70, at Wintrust Arena Saturday evening.
Story via UTEP Athletics
It was a game of big swings, particularly in the first half. After the Miners (6-3) led by 11 (20-9, 11:25 1H), the Blue Demons (6-4) closed out the stanza on a 30-13 push to put Orange and Blue down six (39-33) heading into halftime.
DePaul then used a 16-4 spurt over the first four minutes of the second stanza to extend the lead to 18 (55-37, 15:25 2H). A 12-5 response from UTEP trimmed the deficit to 11 (60-49, 12:28), but the home side essentially put the game away by scoring the next nine points in the contest.
UTEP connected on 48.1 percent from the floor to top 40 percent for the ninth time in as many tilts this year, but it was done in by a barrage of 3-pointers from the Blue Demons. They finished 14-27 from distance, including five from Javan Johnson (23 points). Former North Texas and Oklahoma member Umoja Gibson (22 points) also surpassed 20 points for DePaul.
Kevin Kalu and Calvin Solomon added eight points each to buoy the play of Hardy and McKinney Jr., while Jon Dos Anjos registered seven. Shamar Givance pitched in six points and a game-high five assists.
“It wasn’t a good night, we’ve got some things we’ve got to figure out,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “Obviously, we’re struggling on the road. Something just isn’t right. We’ve got to keep grinding and keep working, we’ve got a good team.
“We just can’t sustain it (long stretches of quality play),” Golding said. “I don’t know if it’s conditioning, getting comfortable. We turned them over eight times in the first 10 minutes and then once in the last 10. We took some really, really bad shots and some quick shots that we talked about the whole time that lead to transition at the 3-point line. They ended up with 14 3-pointers. We are going to keep learning the lesson the hard way until we get it figured out.”
UTEP scored the first four points of the game, including a nice move in the post from Ze’Rik Onyema, but the Blue Demons countered with five straight to grab the 5-4 edge (17:22, 1H). Dos Anjos vaulted the Miners back into the lead with a trey that was nothing but net.
It remained a three-point edge (9-6) before the Orange and Blue ripped off seven straight points on the way to securing an early double-digit advantage (16-6, 13:17 1H). McKinney initiated it with a dunk on a backdoor cut with a nice find by Solomon. Solomon put back a lay-up off a missed shot and then McKinney capped the surge by burying a triple when he was left open at the top of the arc.
The Miners inched it to 11 (20-9) only to have the home side respond with 9-0 run to cut the lead all the way down to two (20-18, 8:58 1H). Givance stopped the surge with a lay-up at the rim, but DePaul’s Philmon Gebrewhit buried a trey to make it a one-point affair (22-21). UTEP stayed cool and ripped off seven consecutive points, with five courtesy of McKinney to go up eight (29-21, 4:56 1H).
The Blue Demons then answered with a 12-0 surge to take their second advantage of the game at 33-29 (1:45 1H) before Solomon ended things with a tough lay-up in traffic. After a basket from Jalen Terry, Malik Zachary nailed a pair of free throws. Terry then raced up court and buried a long trey, plus a foul, for a four-point play to put the Miners down by six (39-33) heading into halftime.
DePaul had the aforementioned strong start to the second half, putting UTEP down by 18 (55-37). Golding had to burn two timeouts during the damaging stretch.
The Miners then recorded five quick points, with a trey from Hardy and a steal and score from Givance to trim the deficit to 13 (55-42, 14:47 2H). It was down to 11 (60-49, 12:28 2H) after Solomon sliced through traffic and laid it in at the rim.
The Blue Demons had an answer in the form of nine straight points to put the Orange and Blue down 20 (69-49, 11:05 2H). UTEP battled down the stretch, but it was unable to get back into the contest.
The Miners have a week off before opening Conference USA action before Christmas for the first time when they play host to LA Tech at 6 p.m. MT on Dec. 17. The game will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso and streamed on CUSA.tv (subscription required). Tickets are available by visiting www.UTEPMiners.com/or by calling (915) 747-UTEP.
Any fan that donates a toy can buy a ticket to the game at the special group rate, starting at just $8. Furthermore, for just $32, fans can purchase four tickets to the game to provide vulnerable children and youth of our community with a fun and enriching experience. UTEP Athletics will match every purchase, doubling the impact of each contribution received. Tickets will be donated to the BOOST Network, a division of the United Way of El Paso County that works with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of El Paso, Boy Scouts of America, and Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest.