Shamar Givance (18 points, six rebounds), Otis Frazier III (17 points, five boards) and Tae Hardy (15 points) all posted double figures in scoring, but WKU managed to knock off UTEP, 74-69, inside E.A. Diddle Arena Saturday afternoon.
Via UTEP Athletics
The Miners (11-12, 4-8 C-USA) started strong by leading as many as 10 (18-8, 10:43) in the first half before settling for a four-point cushion (37-33 at the break). They couldn’t sustain things over the final 20 minutes, though, with the Hilltoppers (13-11, 5-8 C-USA) using a big second half to rally back for the victory.
The home side went on a 28-11 surge over the first 12 minutes of the second half to vault out by 13 (61-48, 7:39 2H). UTEP refused to quit, eventually closing the difference to as few as three (72-69) before WKU iced the game with a pair of free throws.
Givance nailed a career-high five triples while Frazier III hit a pair to help UTEP connect on nine from distance, setting a season high vs. DI foes. Overall, the Miners drilled 40.7 percent (24-59) of their shots. The Orange and Blue also took good care of the ball with 11 turnovers while coming up with nine steals.
They were hindered by going 12-20 at the charity stripe and being assessed a pair of first-half technical fouls. WKU finished at 45.3 percent (24-53) from the floor, including 7-20 on 3-pointers. The Toppers also had a slight advantage on the boards (39-35), despite UTEP recording 10+ offensive rebounds for the 12th time in the past 13 contests. Furthermore, WKU was 19-25 at the free-throw line, including the two late clutch tosses.
Ze’Rik Onyema (eight points, four boards), Calvin Solomon (five points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks) had solid days for UTEP to buoy the efforts of Givance, Frazier III and Hardy. Three players reached double figures in scoring for WKU, including Dontaie Allen’s game-high 25 points.
“We didn’t come out of halftime very good and weren’t very good defensively,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We had a double-digit lead, and they came back when they went small. It’s the same story, a different day. We continued to fight and found a way to make it a one-possession game.
“I thought we moved the ball pretty well (in the first half),” Golding said. “We hit some shots. Otis (Frazier III) hit two (3-pointers) early, that helped. Shamar hit a couple of tough shots against a zone. We had some undisciplined things too. We had two technical fouls and one double foul. We haven’t done that all year.
WKU scored first with a jumper, but UTEP responded with a 5-0 run to grab the lead. Frazier III started it with a corner triple, which was followed by a transition dunk by Onyema on the feed from Solomon.
UTEP was up by two (8-6, 16:25 1H) after an alley-oop for the home side, but the Miners turned things up at both ends of the court. Givance knocked down consecutive triples to ignite an eventual 8-0 run, including one several feet from beyond the arc. Jamari Sibley capped it by slamming home the alley-oop from the lob by Givance.
WKU ended the run with a jumper from the right wing, but the Orange and Blue immediately regained a double-digit cushion (18-8, 10:42 1H) on a shot from Mario McKinney Jr. After a 3-pointer for the home side, Onyema slammed home an offensive putback to vault the Miners ahead by nine (20-11, 9:04 1H).
The Hilltoppers answered with five consecutive points, with a triple and two free throws, to creep within four (20-16, 7:50 1H). Aiding the WKU cause were three fouls in the span of two seconds on UTEP that put it into the bonus. Hardy halted it by going 1-2 at the charity stripe, but the Toppers snuck within two (21-19, 7:17 1H) after another trey.
Two free throws from Onyema and a steal and dunk by Hardy gave UTEP a little breathing room and stemmed the tide in the process. The Miners remained up by six (32-26, 3:46 1H) before Onyema took an elevator to hammer home the lob from Givance over the 7-5 Jamarion Sharp.
WKU eventually whittled UTEP’s advantage down to one (34-33), but Frazier III’s And-1 afforded the Orange and Blue a four-point margin (37-33) at the break.
The home side opened the second half on a 7-2 push to secure its first lead (40-39) since 2-0. The Miners regained the edge by two after Hardy knocked down a 3-pointer. WKU countered with a 7-0 run to force a UTEP timeout, with the Miners suddenly trailing by five (47-42, 14:23). The run eventually stretched to 11-0, forcing another timeout from Golding.
Frazier III went 1-2 at the charity stripe to break the push. He then came up with a steal and score to make it a six-point affair (51-45, 10:52 2H). After WKU went back out by double figures (55-45, 9:38 2H), Frazier III unleashed a spinning move in the paint for the hoop and harm.
The Toppers answered immediately with a trey to reinstate a double-digit cushion (58-48, 8:09 1H). The Miners were down by 11 (67-56, 4:05 2H) before they peeled off six in a row to narrow the gap to five (67-62, 2:16 2H). Frazier III started it with a pair of free throws, which was followed by back-to-back scores from Hardy.
UTEP eventually inched within three after a trey by Hardy (72-69, 00:18 2H), but WKU put things away with a pair of makes at the line.
UTEP returns home briefly to host Charlotte at 7 p.m. MT on Thursday (Feb. 9). It is the Miners’ “Black History Night” game, and fans can purchase two tickets and a commemorative t-shirt for just $40. For more information on the promotion or to purchase tickets, visit www.UTEPMiners.com/Tickets or call (915) 747-UTEP.
Jon Teicher (42nd year) and Steve Yellen (20th year) will be on the call on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso. It will also stream on ESPN+ with Erik Elken and former Miner Hooper Vint describing the action.