Remembering the UTEP Men’s Basketball Battles with Georgetown
Earlier today, we learned that longtime Georgetown men's basketball head coach John Thompson Jr. had died at the age of 78. The legendary coach won a National Title in 1984, and during his 27 years with the Hoyas, he finished with three trips to the Final Four and 20 trips to the NCAA Tournament. Thompson was inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, and he finished with a career record of 596-239.
For UTEP fans, the name John Thompson Jr. brings back memories of the classic games between the Hoyas and the Miners. The first ever meeting between the two teams was on December 27th, 1985. At that time, Georgetown was ranked 5th in the nation and game was the first of a terrific nine day stretch that also featured home wins against Ohio State, Alabama, BYU, and Utah.
UTEP won the game against Georgetown by a final score of 78-64. The loss was the first that season for the Hoyas and it was also their worst loss since 1982. It was also the 450th career win for Don Haskins. Quintan Gates led the Miners with 18 points and 7 rebounds. That legendary battle is available to watch in its entirety on YouTube thanks to MinerMac, who made many of the classic old Miner games available to stream online.
The Miners played at Georgetown the following year, and they lost a close battle by the score of 71-67. Reggie Williams led the way for the Hoyas with 24 points and 10 rebounds while Mike Richmond scored 19 points and grabbed 10 boards for the Miners in a losing effort.
The third meeting took place once again on the road on December 15th, 1990 and UTEP won again by a score of 71-60. The Hoyas were once again ranked 5th in the nation that season, but the Miners played a dominant game and handed Georgetown its first non-conference home loss in eight years. Johnny Melvin led the Miners with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. David Van Dyke had a terrific all-around stat line with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots, while Marlon Maxey and Henry Hall had 12 points each.
The two teams met again two more times and Georgetown won both of those games. The Miners were hammered 71-44 in the second round of the 1993 NIT, ending UTEP's season at 21-13. In 2005, they met in the championship of the State Farm Sun Bowl Basketball Tournament and the Hoyas won it 76-64. By then, Thompson Jr. had already retired as head coach and his son John Thompson III was in his second season as Georgetown's head coach.
Although Georgetown holds a 3-2 all-time record against UTEP, the Miners' two wins came against some excellent teams. For UTEP fans, it invokes memories of two terrific Hall of Fame coaches who were not afraid to play each other despite the Miners' home court advantage at the Special Events Center. Don Haskins agreed to play the Hoyas twice on the road as long as they hosted Georgetown first. The Bear even agreed to have Big East referees officiate the game in El Paso, since Coach Thompson Jr. was afraid of the Miners getting favorable treatment from WAC referees. The video of their first meeting in 1985 is a reminder of the packed crowds that made UTEP one of the toughest places to play a college basketball game.