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UTEP falls to first-place Sam Houston, 65-54

UTEP Athletics

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The UTEP men’s basketball team was upended by Conference USA leader Sam Houston, 65-54, inside the Don Haskins Center Saturday evening.

The game featured four ties and six lead changes, with the Miners (13-15, 4-9 CUSA) leading the Bearkats (17-11, 10-3 CUSA) by one (40-39) with roughly 14 minutes remaining in regulation. Sam Houston struck back in the form of a game-changing 13-2 surge, including eight straight to vault ahead by 10, and UTEP could never recover.

The Orange and Blue finished at 39.2 percent (20-51) from the floor, which was hindered by a readout of 27.3 percent (6-22) on 3-point range. Sam Houston filled up 47.7 percent (21-44) overall, despite the Miners holding the Bearkats to 29.4 percent from 3-point range (5-17). Another factor was the visitors handling UTEP’s vaunted pressure by committing only 12 turnovers. The Miners entered the contest leading the nation in both turnovers forced per game (19.2) and steals per game (11.9).

Otis Frazier III (14 points) and Zid Powell (10 points) both hit double figures in scoring for the Miners. Powell added a team-high six rebounds. Corey Camper Jr. chipped in seven points while David Terrell Jr. registered six.

Cameron Huefner (14 points), Davon Barnes (12 points) and Damon Nicholas Jr. (10 points) and Lamar Wilkerson (10 points) all reached double digits to set the tone for the visitors.  Kian Scroggins added eight points.

UTEP hung tough on the boards (30-27, Sam Houston), keeping the top offensive rebounding team in the league to only seven offensive boards. The Miners also had an advantage for points in the paint (28-20).

Free throws hurt the Orange and Blue, as they finished 8-14 (57.1 percent). The Bearkats, who entered the game pacing CUSA in free-throw percentage, improved upon that by missing just twice (18-20) for a sensational effort of 90.0 percent in the contest.

“Give them credit, that’s a good basketball team playing at a high level right now,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “There’s a reason they’re in first place. They executed at a high level down the stretch. We just could never get in any rhythm offensively. We couldn’t score the basketball. Defensively, we guarded the basketball pretty good for the majority of the game but couldn’t get anything going offensively.”

Defense was dominant from each side early, with it knotted, 6-6, seven minutes into the affair. UTEP got early scores on a backdoor cut by Camper Jr, a score down low from Tae Hardy and a running hook shot by Calvin Solomon. Following a score from each squad, UTEP tallied five in the row on the way to leading, 13-8 (9:41, 1H). Sam Houston countered with an 8-2 run to jump ahead by one (16-15, 5:13, 1H).

Following a score by Powell, the visitors tallied six straight to pull ahead by six (23-17, 3:15, 1H). It remained a six-point differential (27-21) before a free throw by Hardy and a corner 3-pointer by Frazier III cut the margin to two. Sam Houston nudged it to four (29-25) heading into halftime.

The Bearkats moved the differential to eight (35-27, 18:22, 2H) before a 3-pointer from Powell and a driving lay-up courtesy of Terrell Jr. powered a mini 5-0 push. Sam Houston got a score to go back by five before back-to-back treys, courtesy of Jon Dos Anjos and Frazier III, respectively, put the Miners ahead for the first time since the opening frame at 40-39 (14:17, 2H). It was short lived, with Sam Houston using a 5-0 surge to flip the lead in favor of the visitors.

A Derick Hamilton lay-up midway through the second half halted UTEP’s three-minute dry spell and brought the Miners within two. Sam Houston accounted for the next eight points in the contest to put the Orange and Blue down by 10 (52-42, 5:56, 2H), forcing Golding to call timeout as the 13-2 surge came to an end.

After a missed lay-up, Dos Anjos hustled to knock the ball off a Sam Houston player to preserve the possession. It paid dividends in the form of a run-stopping 3-pointer by Frazier III, but the visitors scored on the ensuing possession.

The Miners kept displaying effort down the stretch but were unable to get back into it.

UTEP begins its final roadswing of the season by playing at Jax State at 5 p.m. MT/6 p.m. CT on Feb. 29. Jon Teicher (43rd year) will be on the call on "The Home of UTEP Basketball" 600 ESPN El Paso and the UTEP Miners App for both. It will also stream on ESPN+ (subscription required.

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Bea Martinez

UTEP Athletics


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