The Miners (6-5) emerge victorious against Nebraska (8-4) in the Championship game of the Sun Bowl Invitational Tournament winning by a final of 68 to 52. This was a game that saw a quick 13 to 0 lead to start the game and the Miners never took their foot off the pedal to win their 29th tournament championship. Head Coach Tim Floyd was present for the game. He was fighting the flu last night.
Nebraska came into this game confident after defeating Central Michigan, but someone forgot to tell the Huskers that this Miner team is nothing like that. To start the game the Miners scored the first 13 points of the game. The fans were on their feet for the first 6 minutes and 27 seconds of the game. This would be the best home start for the Miners this season.
The Huskers were led by Ray Gallegos' 22 points. This would be his 8th double figure game of the season. The only other player to post double figure points was forward Brandon Ubel. This was just not the night for the Huskers as they were pretty much doomed from the start.
The Miners played very good defense only allowing Nebraska to shoot 37.3 % on the night. The Miners also held Nebraska to just 2-13 shooting from three. The Miners made sure that they took the lead early and that they never let go. The Miners lead by as much as 22 points tonight.
UTEP dominated Nebraska thanks to the entire starting five. Senior Konner Tucker continued to shoot lights out. Tucker had 17 points and went 5-7 from three point land. After the game we were able to ask him how he felt about winning the tournament MVP title after just playing four games in a UTEP jersey.
"It feels good to win this but it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for my team mates or my coaches. The coaches were the ones calling the plays, we were running them and I was just fortunate to knock them down."
We also asked Tucker how he felt this team was going to do heading towards CUSA play.
"I am just doing what I can, if it is knocking down shots or playing tough for 30 or 20 or even 15 minutes a game it is all for the team. We had a tough loss against UNLV where I could have made the shot but we rebounded well against Oregon and got two big wins here and I feel the team is coming together well."
Junior John Bohannon won the Don Haskins Award which personifies everything that Coach Haskins saw in quality players, which is a tough player with genuine heart for the game. Bohannon has came a long way from his freshman season that was plagued with bad decisions and an even worse attitude. Bohannon had 7 points tonight along with 11 rebounds.
Jacques Streeter was named to the all tournament team. Streeter has played impressive these past two games. Tonight Jacques had 17 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds for the Miners. Since the return of Tucker and Moore, Streeter is able to flow as he would like and get more opportunities for his team mates as well as make some beautiful shots along the way.
The bright point of the game (other than winning the title) was the style of substitutions that Coach Floyd used. We saw the combination of Malcolm Moore, McKenzie Moore, Jalen Ragland, C.J. Cooper and Hooper Vint. For about 4 solid minutes the Miners saw the future and while it wasn't particularly bright, we saw a lot of hustle and determination out of this group.
The Miners will not have another game until December 28th against Cameron, but this is only an exhibition game. On the post game radio show, Coach Johnson stated that we will see a lot of McKenzie Moore and Twymond Howard. They made it clear that this would be a game to develop the confidence of the bench and fine tune some kinks in their play book before heading to Colorado State on January 5th. The Miners begin Conference USA play on January 9th against Tulane.
Final Team Statistics:
FGM-A: 19-51 (37.3%) OREB: 7 AST: 11 TO: 10
3PM-A: 2-13 (15.4%) DREB: 22 STL: 4 PF: 16
FTM-A: 12-17 (70.6 %) ToREB: 29 BLK: 1
FGM-A: 25-53 (47.2%) OREB: 6 AST: 12 TO: 11
3PM-A: 8-17 (47.1 %) DREB: 29 STL: 6 PF: 15
FTM-A: 10-15 (66.7 %) ToREB: 35 BLK: 4
Miner Rush Player(s) of the Game: Senior guard # 25 Konner Tucker
Senior guard #11 Jacques Streeter
Junior forward #21 John Bohannon
It is really hard to single out one player of the game, so this will be the players of the tournament section. These three guys have played exceptionally well this tournament and this week as well. The team is starting to come together and the other CUSA schools are starting to notice that those 3 losses in Orlando and the trouncing by Arizona might be flukes. This Miner team is ready for CUSA play and the big games as we head deeper into the season.