Five Takeaways After UTEP’s 64-61 Home Loss to La Tech
For the third time in the last four conference games, the UTEP men's basketball team let a game slip away. Unlike their previous two losses, this time it happened on their home court at the Don Haskins Center. Louisiana Tech outscored the Miners 10-0 over the final 3:19 to win the game 64-61. UTEP falls to 10-7 on the season and 1-3 in Conference USA play while La Tech improves to 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the league's standings. There are plenty of talking points about this Miners team as they prepare to host UTSA on Wednesday night.
1. UTEP fails to finish out another game. We have seen this before, Miners fans. Just like road losses to both Florida schools, NMSU, Hawaii, and the neutral site game against Boise State, UTEP goes cold offensively over the final three to five minutes. Every game but Houston was winnable down the stretch, but the Miners have struggled to get baskets when they needed it the most. Instead, costly turnovers have doomed them. "Our young guys are still working through what it takes to close games out," UTEP head coach Rodney Terry told Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen on 600 ESPN El Paso after the game. "Again, that's on both ends of the floor and not just the offensive end. Defensively, we have to get stops when we need stops and we weren't able to do that down the stretch. That puts more pressure on our offense to execute." With UTEP leading the Bulldogs 61-54 with just over three minutes remaining, here is how every UTEP offensive possession ended:
2:49 Missed 3-pointer by Souley Boum
1:51 Missed 3-pointer by Bryson Williams
1:09 Missed jumper by Boum
0:24 Turnover by Eric Vila
0:15 Turnover by Jordan Lathon
0:04 Missed 3-pointer by Williams (offensive rebound by Vila)
0:01 Turnover by Vila
2. UTEP's guards struggled to shoot the ball well. Daryl Edwards and Boum were a combined 5-16 from the field while Lathon, Nigel Hawkins, and Kaden Archie were 1-9 between the three of them. At times, the guards play tight on offense and they are afraid to make a mistake since they know that they could be on the bench. Despite their struggles, the Miners still led La Tech by seven with three-plus minutes remaining.
3. Efe Odigie was MIA in the second half. After picking up a foul 47 seconds into the second half against La Tech, the Miners sophomore big man was taken out of the game and replaced by Eric Vila. That was the last time Odigie would play in the game. In nine minutes of action, Odigie started for the Miners and he scored 8 points on 3-3 shooting, while grabbing 3 rebounds and only picking up 2 fouls. Meanwhile, Vila played 28 minutes off the bench and he was once again in the game during the final moments when a costly mistake hurt the team.
4. Deon Stroud did not get into the game. The freshman guard had an electrifying dunk against Southern Miss Thursday night and after that game, Coach Terry was asked by Yellen on the radio broadcast about Stroud. "The thing with Deon that he struggles with is defensively at times," Coach Terry said. "Sometimes he may lose a guy or remember what the scouting report says, but that's just being young. He has a ton of potential and he's had a great attitude. He's just one of those guys where you just have to trust the process."
5. The sky is not falling on the Miners' season. When UTEP beat Texas Tech and Grand Canyon in the exhibition season and later NMSU and UNM at home, many of us envisioned a team that would steamroll through the rest of C-USA. As we approach mid-January, the reality is head coach Rodney Terry has a group that is a still a work-in-progress after 17 regular season games. Although wins and losses are important since it affects conference seeding, the truth is that nothing matters until March 11-14 when the C-USA Tournament is held at The Star in Frisco.