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UTEP Men’s Basketball Edged At Abilene Christian, 88-82

ABILENE, Texas (KVIA) -- Tae Hardy tallied a game-high 22 points and Zid Powell (14 points) and Calvin Solomon (11 points) also reached double figures, but UTEP came up short, 88-82, at Abilene Christian Sunday afternoon.

It was a foul-plagued game, with 33 fouls on the Miners (6-5) and 25 infractions by the Wildcats (5-6), leading to free throws aplenty. ACU finished 34-48 at the charity stripe while UTEP was 25-36. The Miners harassed the Wildcats into 23 turnovers that resulted in 21 points, but the home side overcame that by shooting 57.1 percent (24-42), including 6-13 (46.2 percent) from distance. Two of those 3-pointers came on back-to-back possessions by Hunter Jack Madden with less than three minutes remaining to stave off the Orange and Blue.

There were 12 ties and 13 lead changes in a back-and-forth affair that featured big runs from each squad. The final of those came with roughly six minutes left. UTEP led 70-67, but ACU uncorked a 17-7 push to rip control of the contest. Included were the two critical 3-pointers. The first stretched a one-point cushion (74-73) to four while the latter made it a five-point tilt (80-75, 2:10, 2H). UTEP couldn’t get closer than that the rest of the way.

Otis Frazier III tallied nine points while Corey Camper Jr. produced eight points and career highs in both assists (five) and steals (four) in his second start of the season. Keven Kalu netted seven points and five rebounds before fouling out. Hardy also was tagged with five fouls. Baylor Hebb chipped in four points on 2-3 shooting in his Miner debut.

“They just out-toughed us in the final six minutes of the game,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “There was a free throw box out (missed) for an offensive rebound. I thought 21’s (Madden) two 3-pointers were huge. Their shots went in down the stretch, and some of ours didn’t. Obviously, the free throw line was huge tonight. That was a big part of the game.

“I just told our team, (our problem) has been offense the last two weeks and today it was defense,” Golding said. “We gave up 88 points. We definitively scored enough to win. We just couldn’t get any stops.”

Abilene Christian and UTEP traded blows early on, with a steal and breakaway dunk from Camper Jr. tying the tilt at eight. The home side then picked things up, unleashing a 10-1 run to grab a nine-point cushion (18-9, 12:48 1H). The deficit eventually moved to 11 (26-15, 9:57 1H). UTEP still trailed by eight with 6:36 before it strung together quality plays at both ends of the court.

The Orange and Blue utilized a 10-1 surge in just two-and-a-half minutes on the way to securing their first lead of the contest at 35-34 (4:03, 2H). Hardy initiated it with a lay-up. After an ACU free throw, Hebb used a nifty move on the baseline for a reverse lay-up. UTEP then forced a turnover, and Powell knocked down a pair of free throws after he was fouled.

After a Hardy free throw, the Ellenwood, Ga., native picked off a pass and finished with the old-fashioned 3-point play to wrap up the sequence with the Miners suddenly on top. It was back-and-forth over the next few minutes, with UTEP accounting for the final four points in the frame to lead by three (41-38) heading into halftime.

Kalu showed his strength with an And-1 to start the second half, edging the Miners’ margin to six (44-38, 19:11, 2H). ACU countered with seven straight points to regain the lead. Camper Jr. halted it with a pair of free throws. UTEP then turned the Wildcats over again, with Powell setting up Frazier III for the transition flush. After another giveaway by the home side, Powell finished in traffic to wrap up a mini 5-0 push and help the Miners climb back into the lead at 50-45.

ACU struck back with eight straight points, but once again, UTEP dug deep to counter. Jon Dos Anjos buried a trey to tie the tilt. He then registered a steal, and Hardy raced out in transition to finish in traffic with an And-1. The Wildcats then buried a 3-pointer, tying the tilt at 56 with 11:46 to play.

Both teams dug in defensively over the next several minutes, with the game knotted at 60 at the under-eight media timeout. UTEP scored eight of the next 12 points in the contest to go out by four, but it was unable to hold on.

The Miners return home to take part in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational from Dec. 20-21. They will start the annual event by squaring off against Norfolk State at 7 p.m. MT on Wednesday. UTEP will then face either Wyoming or North Dakota State on the second day of the tournament.

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Rachel Phillips


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