Watch Highlights, More As Miners’ Rally Comes Up Short
COURTESY: Jeff Darby/UTEP Athletics
Lee Moore scored 12 of his 21 points during a 24-6 second-half run that almost brought UTEP all the way back from a 21-point deficit, but FIU held on for a 79-69 win over the Miners on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP (11-9, 3-4 C-USA) saw its 11-game homecourt winning streak in Conference USA play come to an end as FIU (11-9, 5-2 C-USA) maintained its stranglehold on fourth place in the league standings.
After the Miners went up 7-2 early, Adrian Diaz scored six of his 20 points in a 15-2 run that put FIU ahead 17-9 and left UTEP playing catch-up the rest of the night.
UTEP trailed 41-28 at the half and 64-43 with 10:43 to go but came roaring back. Moore and Earvin Morris combined for 19 points during the 24-6 spurt.
Moore’s free throws with 2:48 on the clock made it a one-possession game (70-67). FIU’s Eric Nottage answered with a three-pointer – his only field goal of the night – to double the lead. That started a string of six consecutive points by the Panthers that left UTEP down 76-67 with time running out
FIU outscored UTEP 36-30 in the paint and 16-12 in points off turnovers.
“It seemed like the turnovers came at critical times,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “At the start of the second half, first four minutes, I didn’t think that we were very efficient in playing out of a drive game out front. The decisions that we made, a couple of quick shots, a couple of quick turnovers, really led to the big deficit.”
The Miners outscored the Panthers 26-15 over the last 10 minutes, nearly pulling off what would have been their biggest comeback victory under Floyd.
“I do respect our effort late in the fact that we tried to come back, we tried to fight, we tried to double, tried to force the issue, force quick shots, all those things were positive,” Floyd said. “But the [15-2] run after being up 7-2 was not good.”
Diaz was one of three Panthers with double-digit points. Daviyon Draper had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Donte McGill scored 16 points. Floyd said that McGill’s backcourt mate Kimar Williams was also a major factor in the game.
“I just thought he was by us too much,” Floyd said. “All night long. He was in the lane. He was in the lane over and over and over. It made looks for Draper very easy, looks for [Ray] Rodriguez very easy and Elmo [Stephen] with his two threes in the first half. We’ve got to get to where we can guard a little better. I just can’t believe that three guys we’re trying to take out of the game, we don’t take them out. And that’s not UTEP basketball. It’s not the basketball from our teams. I think the offense contributed to that. Our offense early, our guard didn’t get us organized tonight and we’ve got to do a better job.”
Moore scored 15 points in the second half. Omega Harris scored 12 of his 19 in the second half, when he was 4-for-4 from three-point range. Morris scored nine of his 11 over the final 20 minutes.
“I did think Omega played well. I thought Lee Moore played well. I thought Earvin showed signs, although he’s still struggling with his three ball,” Floyd said.
The Miners got a major assist from a crowd of 7,688 that did its best to will them back in it.
“I love the crowd tonight,” Floyd said. “I thought they were awesome. I thought it was the best home crowd of the year. Sorry we disappointed them and let them down.”
The Miners will be back on the road next week to play Southern Miss Thursday and LA Tech Sunday.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to win on the road,” Floyd said. “The team we’re playing Thursday beat this team. They beat them on the road. So it won’t be easy. None of them are easy for us right now.”