UTEP Men’s Basketball Season Likely Ends March 6th
The UTEP men's basketball team had a golden opportunity to keep their C-USA Tournament hopes alive Saturday night. The Miners had Rice down 20-points in the second half and a win over the Owls would have given Rodney Terry's team a season sweep. At the same time, UTEP would have trailed Rice by only one game with three to play, and the Miners would have won the tiebreaker because of the sweep. Instead, the Owls came all the way back to tie the game and send it into overtime. The two teams played an extra 10-minutes of basketball before Rice escaped the Don Haskins Center with an 87-83 win.
The loss overshadowed the school record performance by freshman guard Jordan Lathon, who dropped 32 points and 18 rebounds on the Owls before fouling out. The performance earned him a well-deserved C-USA Freshman of the Week Award. However, Lathon missed a free throw with eight seconds left in regulation that could have sealed the game. In fact, his 2-7 free throw performance was uncharacteristic of a 12-16 field goal shooting night. The Miners were not the same team without him and they could not slow down Rice in double overtime. UTEP also played the game without star freshman forward Efe Odigie, who sprained his ankle in practice Friday.
Although they haven't been mathematically eliminated, the Miners are most likely done for the season after their final game at Middle Tennessee on March 9th. UTEP would have to win their final three games and hope that Rice beats Middle Tennessee. However, the Miners have not a single conference road game and it is not likely to change over the next two weeks. It is a shame, because few people expected this team to not even make Frisco when conference play began two months ago.