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UTEP outlasts Alcorn State in double OT, 73-61; Miners win third straight

EL PASO, Texas - UTEP held Alcorn State to 30.4 percent from the floor and received scoring contributions across the board in a 73-61 double-overtime victory in its first game at the inaugural Jim Forbes Classic presented by Speaking Rock at the Don Haskins Center Tuesday evening.

It marked the first double-OT contest for the Orange and Blue since falling to Rice, 85-81, on Feb. 23, 2019.

The Miners (3-1) held the lead against the Braves (2-2) for 36 minutes in a wild game that still managed to feature nine lead changes and 10 ties. UTEP found a way to pull it out, scoring the first five points in double overtime and never relinquishing the advantage en route to its third consecutive victory.

Tae Hardy led the charge offensively with 20 points, including going 10-14 at the charity stripe. Calvin Solomon (13 points, nine rebounds), Shamar Givance (10 points), Ze’Rik Onyema (nine points, career-high 10 rebounds) Kevin Kalu (eight points, three boards) and Jamari Sibley (seven points, six rebounds) also got after it to buoy the play of Hardy.

The two sides went a combined 3-40 from 3-point range in a gritty defensive game, with the Braves finishing 2-22 from distance. That included a misfire at the end of the first overtime after outstanding on-ball distance from Solomon.

The Braves were led by 17 points from Dominic Brewton and 14 by Byron Joshua. The Miners shot much better (45.5 percent) than Alcorn State (30.4 percent), but the visitors nearly compensated for that by winning the boards, 53-43, and UTEP finishing 22-43 at free-throw line. The Braves also struggled at the charity stripe, going 17-28.

“I had a ton of respect for Alcorn before the game and I have just as much after the game,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “I think they’re just a terrific team. To go on the road and beat Wichita State, to beat Stephen F. Austin. I’ve played at both places, they’re extremely difficult to play at. They’ve got a tough team. They remind me a lot of our Abilene Christian teams. They’re a little bit undersized. They fight, they’re tough.

“It was two teams competing,” Golding said. “Neither team could shoot the ball. Free throws weren’t very good for either team, but both teams were competing. It was two really good defensive teams. It didn’t look pretty at times, but I’m just so proud of our guys. We just found a way. Guys stepped up and made big plays when they had to. We always talk about toughness wins in our program, and tonight was a grit it out, toughness win.”

Alcorn State scored the first five points of the game before four straight from UTEP, including a dunk from Solomon, made it 5-4.

The Braves remained up by one (9-8) six minutes into the contest before the Orange and Blue kicked it up a level at both ends.

UTEP ripped off a 15-3 run to build an 11-point lead (23-12) and force Alcon State to call timeout with 4:30 remaining in the half.

The Miners’ balanced approach offensively was in full force during the surge with five different players scoring in the sequence.

At the other end of the court, UTEP’s hustling defense forced the Braves to misfire on 13 of 14 shots over the 10-minute stretch.

To its credit Alcorn State fought back and got as close as five (27-22) late in the stanza before the Miners tallied the final three points in the period to lead by eight (30-22) heading into the locker room.

The Braves scored the first five points of the second half to cut the UTEP advantage down to three (30-27) before an offensive putback from Onyema ended the mini run.

The two sides traded scores over the next several minutes, with the Miners’ lead remaining at five (36-31) with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

Alcorn State then scored six of the next seven points on the way to forcing the first tie of the tilt (37-37, 10:34 2H). Givance halted the run with an athletic drive through traffic before laying it up and in off the glass.

The two teams traded buckets over the next couple of possessions, with Alcorn State up by two before the Miners ripped off seven straight points to suddenly lead by five (48-43, 5:45 2H).

Hardy accounted for five points in the sequence, including a nifty take to the rim that was counted after a goaltending call.

The visitors countered with a 5-0 push to pull even (48-48) with four minutes to play.

An up-and-under move by Solomon sent him to the line where he split the pair to put the Miners back in front (49-48).

Another UTEP free throw made it a two-point game before the Braves knotted the score with a backdoor layup with under two minutes to go.

A baby hook by Solomon and a free throw on an ensuing possession put the Orange and Blue up three (53-50) but Alcorn State scored three in a row to tie it with 36 seconds left.

UTEP turned it over late, but the Braves couldn’t take advantage as the contest went to OT.

UTEP scored on the opening possession of the extra session on a hook shot by Onyema.

Both sides went scoreless the next two minutes before a 3-pointer from Alcorn State gave it a one-point edge (56-55).

The Miners regained the lead (57-56) after two clutch free throws from Hardy with 1:30 to play.

The Braves were then fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to pull ahead by two (59-57) with a little more than a minute remaining in OT.

Hardy split a pair of attempts at the charity stripe to make it a one-point game.

The Miners then forced an air ball, in addition to a flop being called on the play. Hardy took advantage and tied the tilt.

After a UTEP giveaway, the Braves airballed a shot to send the game to double overtime.

The Miners started the second OT period strong, accounting for the first five points to vault ahead 64-59.

Onyema initiated it with an emphatic dunk before a basket with a soft touch from Solomon and a free throw courtesy of Givance.

The Braves got on the board with a free throw, but UTEP stretched its advantage to six (66-60, 3:07) after two more free throws from Hardy.

That is as close as the Miners would allow Alcorn State to get as they took care of business down the stretch to lock up their third straight win. 

The Miners will continue play at the inaugural Jim Forbes Classic presented by Speaking Rock when they face CSU Bakersfield at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday.

The Roadrunners knocked off Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 73-63, in the first contest of the Classic. The game will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso and streamed on CUSA.tv.

Tickets are available by visiting www.UTEPMiners.com/Tickets or by calling (915) 747-UTEP.

Article Topic Follows: UTEP

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