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Miners race past UTSA, 82-61

Vince Hunter scored eight of his 15 points during a 23-6 run late in the first half, propelling UTEP to an 81-62 rout of UTSA on Saturday afternoon at the Don Haskins Center.

Julian Washburn scored a game-high 19 points and C.J. Cooper also tallied 15 for the Miners (14-6, 4-1 C-USA), who posted their fourth straight win and ninth victory in 10 games. They also handed coach Tim Floyd his 400th collegiate victory.

Trailing 17-16, UTEP rallied to build a 39-23 lead late in the first half. The Miners put the foot on the gas early in the second period, blowing out to a 20-point lead (54-34) in the first five and a half minutes.

UTEP pushed the lead to 31 (73-42) with 7:10 to go on a layup by Jake Flaggert, and was on cruise control the rest of the way.

The Miners shot 55.6 percent from the field – their third-best mark this season – while scoring 42 points in the paint and a season-best 30 off turnovers.

They held the Roadrunners’ top three scorers – Keon Lewis, Devon Agusi and Jordan Sims – to three points and zero field goals in the first half.

“I thought a lot of good things happened in that game,” said Floyd. “Agusi was averaging 18.5 points over conference play. Lewis is their leading scorer and Sims is about to be their all-time leading three-point shooter and averaging about 13 [points]. Those guys had zero field goals between the three of them [at halftime].

Julian Washburn did an unbelievable job out front on Agusi. It’s the third consecutive game where he has guarded a point guard at 6-8. I can’t tell you how hard that is to do and how great your feet have to be to do it. But he’s initiating for us out front in a way that we haven’t had our defense initiated from the guys behind.”

Washburn had an efficient game offensively as well, making 6-of-7 shots and all four of his free throw tries. With the game decided early in the second half, he was only asked to play 25 minutes. In fact, only one Miner (Cooper) was on the floor for 30 minutes.

Cooper continued his recent streak of hot shooting performances, going 5-for-8 from the field, 3-for-6 from outside and 2-for-2 at the stripe. He had three assists, three steals and no turnovers.

“C.J. appears to be really out of his funk and playing really well in terms of his decision making,” Floyd said. “He’s stepping in with confidence, shooting the ball like we know he can shoot it.”

Hunter brought the crowd of 8,692 to its feet with a couple of dunks off Roadrunner turnovers late in the 23-6 run.

“Vince created some offense out of defense, which is starting to happen for him,” Floyd said. “He’s starting to recognize there are baskets by playing really hard on the defensive end and coming through passes.”

Cedrick Lang was the Miners’ fourth double figure scorer, contributing 12 points in 22 minutes off the bench. Matt Willms had eight rebounds and Lang had seven as UTEP controlled the glass 34-27.

UTSA (6-12, 2-3 C-USA) lost its third straight Conference USA road game.

The Miners shared the ball well with 17 assists and 10 turnovers while temporarily moving into a tie for first place in the league standings.

“It’s fun to come to practice right now,” Floyd said. “I sense that our fans really liked what they were seeing in terms of the energy in the building. It’s great to see that many people come out and respond to a team in serious transition right now.

“We’re not out of the woods. And let me tell you, there are going to be nights where they are saying `What the hell is going on? You’re not doing anything.’ It could happen. But as long as we continue to play inspired on the defensive end, it gives us a chance. We’re doing some nice things right now on both ends.”

The Miners will try to keep the momentum going when they continue a three-game homestand versus preseason C-USA favorite Louisiana Tech on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. UTEP will also host Rice next Saturday at 7:05.

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