The #25 UTEP Miners Survive Hattiesburg Buzzsaw 59-56

The #25 UTEP Miners (21-5, 12-1) survived a late rally to hold off an inspired Southern Miss (16-11, 6-7) team 59-53 in Hattiesburg.  In a game that was every bit as close as the score suggests, UTEP held on late to preserve a school-record 11 game conference win streak.  The Miners now find themselves on the brink of winning at least a share of their first-ever Conference USA regular season championship.  UTEP can clinch a share with a win over last-place Rice (8-19, 1-12) Saturday at the Don Haskins Center. 

Post-Game Comments: .   

  • Buzzsaw:  It was the perfect setting for an upset; a mid-week road game between the trendy, conference darling and the physical star-less team who has quietly been picking up steam to finish the season. UTEP was playing in their first game as a ranked team in 18 years and USM wanted nothing more than to make the Miners a one and done and keep UTEP on their heels going into the final three C-USA regular season games.
  • Derrick Caracter finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds.  In the final minute he had a key offensive rebound and bucket that helped UTEP hold off a frantic, late USM rally.
  • Randy Culpepper overcame a horrendous first half performance (0-6 from the field) to finish with 17 points.  His free throw with 13 seconds left gave UTEP a three point lead that ultimately proved to be enough.
  • Defensively, UTEP forced turnovers (14) and forced USM's shooters into difficult shots.  Both teams struggled from the field.  Southern Miss converted on only 33.3% of their shots.  UTEP shot only 37%.
  • Julyan Stone was a non-factor for most of the game.  He got into foul trouble early and ended with more turnovers (2) than points and assists combined (1).  Hats off to Myron Strong who had a huge game coming off the bench.  He chipped in 11 key points on 5/6 shooting.  He made several huge defensive plays that helped UTEP keep the game close going into the second half. 
  • Southern Miss can beat anybody in the league right now.  They are playing aggressive defense and have an opportunistic offense that is one more scorer away from being really good.  It's no coincidence that this team held UAB and UTEP to under 60 points in all four of those games.  Gary Flowers is really good.  He led Southern Miss with 15 points and he drained a huge three with less than a minute to go that put USM in a position to steal the game.  Lucky for us, Derrick Caracter hit a basket on the next possession after getting an offensive rebound.
  • MVP:  Derrick Caracter.  In the first half, when Randy Culpepper couldn't make a shot, DC kept UTEP in it.  When the game was slipping away, he made the offensive play that kept UTEP in front.  The big man gave the Miners 32 hard minutes tonight and it seemed like he was in the center of the action for all of them.

BOX SCORE

NEXT GAME:  Saturday, February 27, 2010; Rice Owls (1-12, 8-19) at UTEP Miners (21-5, 12-1)

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