UTEP 57, Charlotte 53: UTEP Slips Away in Final Seconds Over 49ers
Coming off a five-second violation turnover off an inbound pass, freshman Jordan Lathon knew he needed to step up and get a stop with less than 10 seconds on the clock and the Miners up 55-53.
Charlotte's inbound was heavily contested, which led to a blocked shot by Lathon and gave Evan Gilyard the opportunity to secure the ball, draw a foul and put Charlotte away at the free throw line for the 57-53 win on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The win for the Miners (7-12, 2-6 C-USA) came with both a sigh of relief and also snapped their three-game losing streak.
"We haven't really been in that position all year long," head coach Rodney Terry said. "Nevertheless, the guys executed, we were able to finish out the ball game, more importantly, we went to the line and closed out the game with our free throws."
The win was huge for senior Paul Thomas, who had struggled all conference long prior to this game. His 11 points, seven rebounds, two steals and one block helped the Miners snag their win at home.
"In my mind, he's player of the game," Terry said, who chose to start Thomas in place of Ountae Campbell tonight. "I thought he had a great approach to the game. He set the tone early. I thought he had really good preparation, good communication with the guys and I thought we did good against a Princeton offense."
The Miners shut down C-USA leading scorer Jon Davis in the first half to just four points. In the second, he was looser and finished with a quiet 23 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
"He got 23 points off 20 attempts," said freshman Nigel Hawkins, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. "I think our coach will be proud of that. He's a good player."
The Miners were on a mission from the get-go. They hung in with Charlotte in a back-and-forth start but were able to break away with a 13-3 run that set them up for a sustainable lead for the remainder of the half.
After having been nearly ineffective in the first seven games of conference play, Paul Thomas came out strong against Charlotte and scored five points, grabbed two boards, forced two steals and helped to hold C-USA's leading scorer in Jon Davis to just four points in the first half.
Eight of the Miners finished the first half with scoring numbers and as a team, they shot substantially better than Thursday's game—40 percent from the floor, 30 percent from 3-point range at the end of the first.
The only drawback was that the team was a little antsy with the ball on offense, as they finished the first half with 10 turnovers.
In the second half, Charlotte battled back with some nice runs of their own. They took the lead for nearly four minutes in the second half.
Among nine lead changes and seven times the score was tied, the game boiled down to the bitter end where the 49ers had to rely on UTEP missing free throw attempts. After back-to-back lead extending free throws by Lathon and Gilyard down the stretch, the Miners closed out the game and won it by four.
UTEP finished the game shooting 36 percent from the floor and 25 percent from 3-point range. They held Charlotte to 38 percent from the floor and 24 from beyond the arc.
In front of 4,856 fans, Terry took the time to thank the supporters after the win.
"The energy that we have had in this building has made a difference for this team," Terry said. "Our fans have been great. We'll get this thing back now. We're going to bring the magic back in the Don. It's coming."
Terry also expressed the fact that the program both landed Kaden Archie, a four-star transfer from TCU, and beat Charlotte in the same weekend.
"That's a great way to wrap up a weekend no doubt," Terry said. "We're excited about Kaden, comes from a great family. Every time you finish your prep career and you're top-five in the state, you've got a pretty high ceiling as a player. We're excited about having him and he's going to be a great fit."
Next, the Miners will take on Marshall on the road next Thursday.