Calvin Solomon (game-high 16 points) and Tae Hardy (12 points) both hit double figures in scoring and UTEP piled up 36 points in the paint, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a barrage of 3-pointers from visiting Charlotte in a 62-53 setback at the Don Haskins Center Thursday.
Via UTEP Athletics’ Mark Brunner
It was a game of big swings with the Miners (11-13, 4-9 C-USA) up by six (25-19, 6:21 1H) late in the first half. The 49ers (14-10, 5-8 C-USA) struck by wrapping a 34-10 run around the locker room to surge out by 18 (53-35, 13:16 2H). UTEP continued to battle and twice reduced the deficit to six with less than four minutes to play, but it couldn’t complete the comeback.
Charlotte shot 47.7 percent from the floor, including nailing 13-27 from distance. UTEP hit 50 percent of its shots over the first 20 minutes but cooled off in the second stanza to conclude at 42.6 percent. Affecting the overall figure was a readout of 6.7 percent (1-15) on 3-pointers.
The Miners tried to compensate for the shooting discrepancies by having a good night at the free-throw line (12-17, 70.6 percent), owning the paint (36-16), forcing 15 turnovers that led to 21 points and holding advantages in both second-chance points (10-0) and fastbreak scoring (17-5). Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough as the 49ers held on for the win to earn a split in the season series, with the road team claiming both matchups.
Jamari Sibley came off the bench to tally six points in support of Solomon and Hardy, but no other Miner had more than five points in the contest. Solomon also paced the team in rebounding (six) and assists (three), making him the first Miner to lead the squad in points, boards, and helpers since Souley Boum at LA Tech on Feb. 17, 2022.
Charlotte featured a balanced offense with six different players tallying at least seven points, include Montre Gipson (15 points) and Lu’cye Patterson (10 points) in double figures.
“Charlotte can shoot the basketball,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We were able to take them out of their stuff at their place, but we didn’t have it tonight. Give them credit, they made the extra pass and made shots. We went small in the second half to switch everything and take away the threes, but then obviously we couldn’t score the basketball with that lineup. It was just a frustrating night on that side of the floor.
“That’s the game, they hit 13 threes and we go 1-15,” Golding said. “We didn’t get off to a good start (in the second half). We came in wanting to control the paint and turn them over. We outscored them 21-10 off turnovers, 36-16 in the paint, 10-0 on second-chance points and 17-5 on fastbreak points. It was the 3-point line (that was the difference in the game). Give Charlotte credit. We’re going to continue to fight. Our guys haven’t quit.”
Charlotte got out to an early 6-0 edge, taking advantage of a pair of Miner turnovers, before Derek Hamilton’s putback got UTEP on the board. After the 49ers nudged the edge to 9-2, a Hardy trey and another basket from Hamilton cut the deficit to two (9-7, 14:14 1H).
The differential was six (13-7) before a driving layup from Hardy was followed by a steal and score from Sibley to bring UTEP within two. The visitors used a 5-0 run to regain a six-point cushion (19-13), but the Miners struck back with a 12-0 surge to vault ahead for the first time of the tilt at 25-19 (6:21 1H).
It started innocently enough when Otis Frazier III split a pair of free throws before a wide-open baseline jumper from Ze’Rik Oyema. Solomon then got a dunk and two free throws on the ensuing possession to give UTEP its first lead of the tilt at 20-19. An old-fashioned 3-point play from Hardy and a layup by Sibley capped the run, with UTEP up, 25-19 (6:21 1H).
Charlotte responded with an 9-2 push on the way to pulling back ahead at 28-27. It was back and forth over the next couple of minutes before the 49ers closed the stanza by accounting for the final six points to put the Miners down by four (34-30) at the break.
Hardy’s steal and score to start the second half brought the Miners to within two (34-32). Charlotte countered with consecutive 3-pointers to suddenly jump out by eight (40-32). The 49ers eventually extended it to 12 (47-35, 15:31 2H) to force a UTEP timeout.
The push continued after the stoppage, with Charlotte nudging the differential to 18 (53-35, 13:16 2H) as part of a 19-5 run to begin the second half for the 49ers. Solomon ended the sequence, which included 10 straight for the visitors, with a hook shot.
Charlotte scored on the ensuing possession to go back out by 18 (55-37, 12:06 2H), but a 6-0 UTEP run over the next four minutes forced a timeout from the visitors. Jon Dos Anjos began it with a jumper in the lane, which was followed by respective lay-ups from Malik Zachery and Frazier III.
It was a 13-point deficit still (57-44, 6:53 2H) before the Miners started to rally. UTEP ripped off seven straight points to claw within six (57-51, 3:19 2H). Solomon had five of the seven points in the surge, but Charlotte wouldn’t let the Orange and Blue get any closer than six the rest of the way.
UTEP is back on the road to wrap a stretch of six of nine away from home when it plays at UTSA at 2 p.m. MT/3 p.m. CT Saturday. It will be streamed on CUSA.tv. Jon Teicher (42nd year) and Steve Yellen (20th year) will be on the call on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso.