It was a great night in the Don Haskins center. A night in which we said farewell, to a group of 8 great seniors. OK, well not exactly farewell as they'll still be playing here in the C-USA tournament, but still a special night. The first few minutes of the game were back and forth, but the Miners took a 12-11 lead on a Claude Britten Jumper with 15 minutes to go in the first half, and the they wouldn't give it up again. Coach Tim Floyd and his crew brought in a solid game plan of attacking the paint early and often. It worked out great, as the Miners enjoyed a 37-29 lead at the half.
In the opening minutes of the final twenty, the Miners were able to extend their lead out to twelve, but the Herd would not go quietly. A 19-10 run would bring the Herd within three at 55-52 with about 12 minutes to go. After the Miners created a bit more space, Marshall would once again make a nice run to get it back to 67-63, but they were outlasted as UTEP would score 7 of the next 8 points to take the lead back into double digits at 74-64. In the end, the Miners scored a nice 82-74 victory over a solid Marshall team on senior night in the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners were led by Randy Culpepper who had 24 points, and 7 assists. Christian Polk and Claude Britten both had 12 points of their own, and Jeremy Williams had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow seniors Wayne Portalatin, and Gabe McCulley put up 7 and 5 points respectively. Of course, there's still one missing. Our senior PG from Goletta, CA, Julyan Stone. Stone had another amazing performance nearly racking up a triple double with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists. Marshall was led by Tirrell Baines who racked up 22 and 11, while DeAndre Kane went for 20 and 7.
The key to this game was very simple. Get it in the paint. With Randy Culpepper driving to the bucket, and Claude Britten down low in the post it was hard not shoot a high percentage. The Miners shot an amazing 60% from the field, while holding the Herd to a luke warm 38%. Let's get one thing straight. This was far from the best defensive performance of the year, especially on the defensive glass. Marshall stayed in this game by dominating us on the boards. In the end it was a 47-31 advantage, including 24 offensive rebounds that led to 22 second chance points.
One thing that may have affected the Miners' ability to rebound was the rarely played zone that they ran for the majority of the night. It did however, force the Herd into taking 28 threes, knocking down a handful of them early in the second half that kept them close. But, as the saying goes, you live be the three, you die by the three. In the end not nearly enough threes went down for Marshall and they found themselves leaving El Paso with their first loss in six tries.
Next up for the Miners (22-8, 10-5) is a road trip Dallas to take on SMU in Moody Coliseum. The Mustangs dropped a close one last night in Orlando, and another close one last Saturday in Huntington. They won't be an easy task, and after one game at their usual start time, the Miners will be back to an unusual one with a 1:00 p.m. mst tip. No TV has been announced, but that could still change. As always, you can hear the game, called by the voice of the Miners on 92.3 the Fox.