What do you do when your frontcourt is not very tall, and your opponent plays a zone defense? Well, you can try what UTEP did against the NMSU Aggies, last night in The Don Haskins Center.
The Miners were having trouble defending the Aggies forward, Troy Gillenwater, and were taking quick shots from the outside. They were down 4-9 in front of a home crowd of 11,792. Then, the Miners started throwing three point grenades at the Aggies, and blew the game open. Randy Culpepper threw two in a row to give the Miners a 10-9 lead.
The Aggies were already dominating the boards and were outrebounding the Miners 12-3. But, if the basketball goes through the net, there is no rebound. Now, Miner Christian Polk didn't want Culpepper to have all of the fun, so he let one fly. Three more. Miners 13, Aggies 11.
With 11:23 left in the first half, the Miners led 15-13. There went another one from Polk. Culpepper tossed another. The score-21-13.
Wayne Portalatin came in to the game, and although the stat sheet wouldn't tell you this his big body and tough defense in the paint made an immediate impact on the Aggies inside game.
Jeremy Williams tossed in another three pointer. Steal by Portalatin. With 7:36 left in the half, the Miners were up 26-15. Big Claude Britten came in to give Portalatin a breather, and add some offensive punch inside.
The next three point shot came from Gabe McCulley. NMSU's Gillenwater scored two, and Rahman got a dunk to bring the Aggies to within eight, at 21-29. The Aggies' Watson hit a shot, and all of a sudden the Aggies were back to within 6. Big Claude added two. A couple of Aggie free throws later and the score was 31-25 Miners.
This time, it was Aggie Gordo Castillo tossing in a three pointer, and closing the gap to three at 31-28.
Williams and Polk put in two more from beyond the arc. Aggie Hernst Laroche hit one from three point range. Christian Polk launched another one, and the first half came to an end. When the smoke cleared, the scoreboard showed the Miners leading the Aggies 40-31.
Thirty of the Miners first half 40 points had come from their three pointers. The second half would be much different. In the first half the Miners were hitting from so far out, that they only had shot one free throw, Claude Britten's miss. In the second half, the Miners would take the ball inside, and force the Aggies to send them to the line. The Miners chest to chest defense also began to frustrate the Aggies, and Head Coach Menzies bought a Technical Foul, and two Aggies committed two intentional fouls. One, sent Miner freshman, John Bohannon to the bench for the remainder of the game with a broken nose.
In the first half, the Miners defense had held the Aggies to 41.4% from the field. In the second half, the Miners turned it up a couple of notches and held the Aggies to just 31% shooting from the field.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the court, the Aggies were sending the Miners to the free throw line 24 times, where the Miners added 17 points to their total.
In the first half, it was Miners' grenades and defense that did the Aggies in. In the second half, it was the Miners' defense and free throw shooting that did the Aggies in.
Did you ever see a bear smile? Me neither. But, if ever one did, it might be because a Miners defense held an Aggies offense to 56 points, and made those same Aggies eat 18 Miners points from free throws.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.