Omega Harris scored 11 of his 19 points in the first six and a half minutes, and UTEP opened the game with a 15-0 run en route to a 71-56 clobbering of Florida Atlantic on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (11-8, 3-3 C-USA) got back to the .500 mark in Conference USA play, ended a three-game losing skid and notched their 11th consecutive league victory at home dating back to last season.
“We were better tonight and I’m really encouraged by a lot of things that happened,” coach Tim Floyd said. “We really shared the ball. I thought Lee [Moore] and Dominic [Artis] played very good floor games. Omega played with a lot of energy and played well offensively. So our guard play was improved.”
Harris made 5-of-8 shots, 3-of-4 three pointers and all six of his free throws in an efficient offensive performance. Hooper Vint matched him with 19 points, scoring 12 in the second half. He was 7-for-12 from the floor and 5-for-5 from the charity stripe. The Miners shot 50 percent as a team and 77.3 percent (17-for-22) from the line.
They were equally adept on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Owls (4-15, 2-4 C-USA) to 37.5 percent shooting while outrebounding a C-USA opponent for the first time this season (34-32).
“We got back defensively,” Floyd said. “We didn’t give up a lot of points in transition. I thought the fact that we’re throwing the ball inside more is helping settle us down a little bit. I thought it helped our shooting percentage. A guy that’s shooting 54 percent from the field for us, Hooper Vint, took the most attempts. And that’s the way it should be. We’re getting more touches in areas where we should get touches.”
The Miners pushed out to a 20-point lead at halftime (40-20). When the Owls pulled within nine (46-37) five and a half minutes into the second half, UTEP didn’t flinch, putting the game out of reach with a 21-2 run.
Jeantal Cylla led the Owls with 19 of his 25 points coming in the second half.
Floyd noted that the Miners’ decision making was much better than in the second half of a 71-67 loss at UTSA last Saturday.
“I thought in situations tonight where we were three-on-five and two-on-five we decided not to go dribble between eight guys and go crank one up,” he said. “We decided to kick it out, throw it to the post and go play off of it and as a result we won the rebounding game. We didn’t shoot shots when guys weren’t in position to offensive rebound. We knew that we now had floor space in order to be able to get back defensively and settle down and do a job there.”
The Miners pounced on the Owls from the get go.
“They had a lot of freshmen in there early in a road game and I thought we took advantage of that,” Floyd said. “We forced some turnovers and made some good plays in the open floor.”
And when the lead became precarious in the second half, the Miners found a way to close it out.
“At least we fought through it and continued to play,” Floyd said. “It always helps being at home in front of your crowd.”
UTEP, which had two separate winning streaks of six and four games earlier this season, will look to start another one on Saturday when FIU comes to town at 7:05 p.m.
“Our team needed that game tonight,” Floyd said. “I thought we played really well out of the box like we were bothered by [the game] last Saturday, which I like.”