Courtesy: UTEP Athletics

Freshman Marquan Botley banked in a three pointer with three seconds left, lifting Florida Atlantic to a 71-69 upset of UTEP on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center.

The Plano, Texas native tied his season high with 23 points, making 8-of-14 shots and 5-of-8 three pointers.

The Miners (18-7, 8-2 C-USA) had their eight-game winning streak come to an end and dropped into a four-way tie for first place in Conference USA with Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss.  UTEP still owns tiebreakers over the Bulldogs and Blue Raiders and will get a shot at Southern Miss next Saturday (Feb. 22) in Hattiesburg, but can’t afford any more slippage at the Don Haskins Center, where it has dropped two league games to Charlotte and FAU.

“I want to credit Mike Jarvis and his staff for the job they did,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “Nothing they did really surprised us.  They were very disciplined offensively and used great shot selection for the entire game.  They made us guard for long periods of time, much like Rice.  I thought they were very, very effective the last seven seconds of shot clock situations.  They took the shot clock down and made us pay.”

UTEP led just twice in the game, at 2-0 on a Julian Washburn jumper and 69-68 on a three pointer by C.J. Cooper with 13 seconds left.  The Miners lost for the first time this season when they scored the game’s first points (11-1).

Trailing 65-52 with 4:46 remaining, UTEP outscored FAU 17-3 in a feverish four-and-a-half minute spurt to regain the lead before Botley came through for the Owls once again.

“Our formula for winning was no different tonight,” Floyd said.  “The other team shoots more threes and we shoot more free throws.  We didn’t defend the three-point line as well as we have.  I don’t discredit what happened on the last possession.  We switched it and he had to shoot it over a 6-11 guy [John Bohannon] and banked it in.  Credit to the kid.”

The Miners fell behind by as many as 20 points in the second half and nearly made an incredible rally, only to come up just short.

Florida Atlantic (10-15, 5-5 C-USA) shot 52 percent from the field, made 10-of-20 three pointers and became just the second team to score 70 points on the Miners in the last nine games.

C-USA leading scorer Pablo Bertone scored 18 points and also shot well for the Owls, finishing 6-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-5 from beyond the arc.

The Miners tried to compensate for their defensive struggles by outscoring the Owls 36-20 in the paint and making 17-of-22 free throws (10-of-13 in the second half).  It wasn’t enough.

“We got to the foul line and made our free throws,” Floyd said.  “We didn’t rebound it like we had. We knew they were a solid rebounding team.  But I credit their poise and their ability to shoot it.  We are one of the top-10 teams in the country in three-point field goal percentage defense and it didn’t happen tonight.  We bit on a lot of shot fakes.  They got us in the air, took one dribble, pulled up and knocked it down.” 

Vince Hunter scored 18 points, Bohannon and Washburn 16 apiece, and Cooper 15 for the Miners, who will try to start another winning streak on Saturday versus FIU at 7:05 p.m.

--Jeff Darby