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UTEP Beats UTSA 61-51; Seeded 5th in CUSA Tournament

It was a good news/bad news night for the UTEP men’s basketball team. The good news was that the Miners defeated UTSA 61-51 behind C.J. Cooper matching his career high with 20 points. The bad news is that both Louisiana Tech and Middle Tennessee also won tonight, which put UTEP into next week’s C-USA Tournament as a 5-seed. Here are both official releases, courtesy of UTEP Athletics and C-USA.

Jeffrey Waters.

UTEP Tops UTSA, Earns No. 5 Seed in C-USA Championship

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – UTEP polished off UTSA in its regular season finale on Thursday, 61-51, but missed out on a top-four seed and double bye in next week’s Conference USA Championship when Middle Tennessee rallied to win at UAB.

The Miners (22-9, 12-4 C-USA) will be seeded fifth in next week’s conference tournament in El Paso and will face the winner of no. 12 East Carolina and no. 13 UTSA on Wednesday at 6 p.m. MT. The Pirates (16-15, 5-11 C-USA) and the Roadrunners (8-21, 4-12) will square off on Tuesday.

UTEP was victorious at East Carolina during the regular season, 58-47, and swept UTSA, winning 81-62 in El Paso and 61-51 in San Antonio.

UTEP scored the first seven points on Thursday and never trailed in putting away UTSA. There were a few anxious moments late in the second half when the Roadrunners, on a 15-2 run, trimmed a 47-30 Miner lead down to 49-45. But UTEP restored order behind C.J. Cooper, who matched his career-high with 20 points.

Cooper hit a big three at the five-minute mark to extend the Miner lead to 52-45. He also hit a pair of free throws with 2:24 remaining to make it an eight-point game (55-47). His jumper with 1:40 to play pushed the lead to double digits once again (57-47).

“We got some really great guard play from C.J. Cooper tonight,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “I thought he got us into play consistently with five assists and two turnovers. He did a nice job in his assignment defensively. He made big shots for us late.”

Cedrick Lang was the only other UTEP player in double figures as he supplied 12 points off the bench. He matched his high point total in a C-USA game this season after also scoring 12 versus UTSA on Jan. 25 and FIU on Feb. 15.

John Bohannon, Julian Washburn and Matt Willms chipped in with eight points apiece for the Miners, who received 56 points from five players.

UTEP didn’t shoot particularly well in the first half (39.1 percent), but led 28-16 while holding UTSA to 22.2 percent. The Miners scored 10 of their 15 points off turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

UTEP outrebounded UTSA 22-16 in the first half. The Roadrunners turned the tables after the break, outrebounding the Miners 26-17 while enjoying a 16-4 edge in second chance points.

“I felt we gave them too many offensive boards, which is real problematic,” Floyd said. “We gave up a lot of drive baskets to 6-6 guys. We’re going to have to solve [that] to move forward next week.”

Devon Agusi got hot for UTSA in the second half, scoring 13 of his 14 points and going 3-for-7 from downtown.

The Miners tied the most C-USA road wins in school history, finishing 7-1 away from El Paso while holding seven teams to 61 points or less.

“Our road record this year is a real credit to our guys, how hard we played on the road, how consistently we played on the road and the defensive field goal percentage that we gave up on the road,” Floyd said. “It was another great night for us on the defensive end, giving up 31.8 percent and 26.1 percent from the three-point line. Those were key stats, and we didn’t put them at the line.”

Now it’s on to March Madness at the Don Haskins Center.

“We’re going to playing four games, which I assume our fans will like,” Floyd said. “I’m real proud of our guys. They’ll get a day off tomorrow and we’ll go back to work and start getting ready for the most important time of the year.”

C-USA Championship all session tickets are on sale now by calling (915) 747-6150. Prices start at just $80 for admission to a total of 29 games (men’s and women’s).

Single session tickets will go on sale Friday (March 7) and will be available by calling (915) 747-5234. Men’s single session prices range from $15-$50, and women’s single session tickets are $10.

UTEP Athletics.

After taking a share of its second straight regular season conference championship in its first year as a member of Conference USA, Louisiana Tech will be the No. 1 seed at the 2014 Conference USA Men’s Basketball Championship, March 11-15 at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. The Bulldogs shared the C-USA regular season title with Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss. The four-way tie marked just the third time in the league’s 19-year history that multiple teams tied for the regular season men’s basketball crown and the first time since five schools shared the title in 2004.

All games will be played at the Don Haskins Center on the UTEP campus, site of the 2011 C-USA Championship. First, second and quarterfinal round games on Tuesday, March 11, Wednesday, March 12 and Thursday, March 13 will air on the C-USA Digital Network. The Friday semifinal games will be shown on CBS Sports Network at 2 and 4:30 (MDT). CBS will broadcast the championship game on Saturday, beginning at 10:35 a.m. (CDT).

More information to follow: http://www.conferenceusa.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/030614aam.html

2014 Conference USA Championship Schedule
Don Haskins Center, El Paso, Texas

Tuesday, March 11
(10) North Texas vs. (15) Rice (C-USADN) 3:30p
(11) Florida Atlantic vs. (14) Marshall (C-USADN) 6:00p
(12) East Carolina vs. (13) UTSA (C-USADN) 8:30p

Wednesday, March 12
North Texas/Rice vs. (7) Tulane (C-USADN) 12:00p
FAU/Marshall vs. (6) Old Dominion (C-USADN) 2:30p
ECU/UTSA vs. (5) UTEP (C-USADN) 6:00p
(9) Charlotte vs. (8) UAB (C-USADN) 8:30p

Thursday, March 13
NT/Rice/Tulane vs. (2) Tulsa (C-USADN) 12:00p
FAU/MAR/ODU vs. (3) Middle Tennessee (C-USADN) 2:30p
ECU/UTSA/UTEP vs. (4) Southern Miss (C-USADN) 6:00p
UAB/Charlotte vs. (1) Louisiana Tech (C-USADN) 8:30p

Friday, March 14
Semifinal # 1 (CBS Sports Network) 2:00p
Semifinal # 2 (CBS Sports Network) 4:30p

Saturday, March 15
Championship Game (CBS) 9:35a

All Times MOUNTAIN

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