UTEP 85, FIU 75: Miners Snap Three-Game Losing Streak Off Huge Comeback Win
It took the Miners 30 minutes to beat FIU.
The other 10 minutes? UTEP doesn't want to talk about them.
UTEP (8-15, 3-9 C-USA) shot less than 30 percent from the floor 14 minutes into the first half and trailed as much as 12 points with 11:04 left in the first, but the Miners fought back on a 23-6 run from the end of the first and beginning of the second half to give the Miners an 85-75 victory over Florida International on Saturday evening at the Don Haskins Center.
"With the win, you sleep a lot better, you feel a lot better," first-year coach Rodney Terry said. "You're not going to play perfect, I'm not going to coach perfect, you're not going to have a perfect game. The thing I challenged the guys tonight is to play with a purpose and fight to win. All the things I thought the guys didn't do last night, they did tonight."
The Miners used freshman guard Nigel Hawkins' 20 points, while Paul Thomas, Jordan Lathon and Evan Gilyard finished with 16 points each in the win.
"It stemmed from more defensive intensity," Thomas said. "I think we picked off from that in the second and that was key for us."
In the first half, the Miners started where they left on Thursday: turning the ball over too frequently and could not hit any of their shots. Through the first 11 minutes, UTEP shot 22.2 percent from the floor and turned the ball over nine times.
And suddenly, they turned it on.
The Miners woke up out of their early funk with the help of back-to-back 3-pointers by Lathon by the six-minute mark in the game, where they closed out the half on a 15-4 run. Hawkins chipped in with 10 points, while Gilyard had a smooth eight points off the bench for the Miners at the end of the half.
"That's our leader right there," said Thomas. "He's going to be a great player for the Miners."
"Yesterday, even though we were on our off day, he was in the gym practicing on his shot and it paid off big time for us," Hawkins said.
At the 16-minute mark, Lathon was 4-for-4 beyond the arc and had 16 points. He exited the game with foul trouble and once he returned, he immediately fouled out.
The rest of the bunch were able to hold it down, though, despite a spirited comeback by FIU late in the game. Panthers forward Devon Andrews hit eight field goals and totaled 26 points for FIU.
But UTEP's defense was simply too much at the end. They held FIU to shooting 38 percent from the floor, compared to their 50 percent (28-for-56), and shot nine less attempts than FIU.
The Miners dominated the glass as well in the victory, beating out FIU 46-28 with a +18 rebound margin.
UTEP's biggest blemish was their 25 turnovers (-8 margin), which included seven turnovers by Kobe Magee and four apiece from Lathon and Hawkins.
Next up, the Miners will put their winless road record on the line as they travel to LA Tech and Southern Miss next week.