It wasn't their best performance, but it was far from the worst. The Miners jumped out to quick leads of 6-0 and 10-2, before the Mustangs finally settled in with a 12-2 run. SMU took the lead at 17-15 on a three pointer from Jeremiah Samarrippas with 12:30 to go in the first twenty, and they would carry that lead for a good portion of the game. The Miners were down by as many as nine in the first half, but were able to close the gap to 4 at intermission.
The second half was played much like the first, with the Ponies leading almost the entire way. SMU pushed its lead back up to as many as seven points in final half, but the Miners were persistent and refused to let their opponents pull away. A Jeremy Williams jumper with 7:20 to go tied the game for the Miners, and after thirty-three minutes of stagnant offense, and uninspired defense the home team finally found its spark. UTEP outscored SMU 21-7 over the final nine minutes of the game, and pulled away for a 67-57 victory.
Christian Polk led the way for the Miners on this night, scoring 18 points and pulling down 5 rebounds. Randy Culpepper had a fairly quiet night going 3-8 from the field for 14 points, to go along with 3 boards and 3 assists. Gabe McCulley played tough going for 8 points, and 7 rebounds, while Jeremy Williams chipped in with 10 points, and 6 boards. And, of course, Julyan Stone had another Julyan Stone like performance with 11 points, 7 assists, and 0 turnovers.
As usual Papa Dia led the way for the Mustangs registering a double double with 18 points, and 10 rebounds. Jeremiah Samarrippas and Collin Mangrum each put up 12 points, respectively, and Robert Nyakundi had a tough night at the office as Julyan Stone held him to 4 points, with 4 turnovers.
The Miners improved to 19-5, 7-2 with the victory, but are not playing at the level that such an experienced team should be playing at at this point. At times the offense seems completely out of whack with players standing around, trying to play too much one on one basketball. The defense which had been completely suffocating earlier in the season has eased up a bit, and it showed tonight as the Mustangs shot over 50% for the majority of the game.
Now is not the time for mistakes, now is not the time for letdowns. These guys have been here before, these guys know how to win. They need to play like it. Winning games is great, but if we continue to play the way that we have the last few weeks, those wins will be a lot more sparse down the stretch.
Up next for the Miners is a trip to Hattiesburg, MS to take on Larry Eustachy and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The Golden Eagles are coming off a loss to Memphis, and will surely be looking to get back on the winning track on their home floor. Besides BYU, this will be the biggest test of the Miners' season to this point. Come in like we did tonight, and we may get run out of the gym. Tipoff is set for 8:00 p.m. et, and will be carried by 92.3 the fox.