It was a disappointing finish to a game where the Miners started to look like they had finally turned the corner. Despite sputtering a bit down the stretch, UTEP built a lead of as many as 8 in the first twenty minutes, and held on to a four point advantage heading into the locker rooms.
The Miners continued to play well out of the break, opening up the second twenty minutes on a 9-0 run. The Orange and Blue would lead by as many as 15 at 43-28 with just over 13 minutes to play, but that's when the wheels came off.
UAB slowly started chipping away at the Miners lead, and used an 11-0 run to put a 50-39 game to a 50 all tie with six minutes left in the ball game. UTEP answered back, reeling off five in a row, and even managed to open up a six point lead with under two minutes to play, but costly mistakes kept the door open for the Blazers.
The Miners had three turnovers and three missed free throws in the final three minutes, and UAB took advantage, sending the game to overtime at 64 all.
In the extra frame, UAB controlled the tempo and had all the momentum, and used a 7-1 run to put themselves ahead 71-65 with three minutes to go. The Miners fought back, and cut the lead to one on two different occasions, but in the end it wasn't enough as they fell 78-72.
The loss drops the Miners to 11-8 on the season, and 4-2 in conference play. The Blazers improved to 9-12 overall, and picked up their first win in C-USA action, moving to 1-6 in league play.
McKenzie Moore led the way for the Miners, scoring 18 points on 5-11 shooting. Konner Tucker finished with 16 points, but also had 5 turnovers. Julian Washburn finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds, and Jacques Streeter had 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists. John Bohannon, who was coming off his best performance of the year against East Carolina, finished with 4 points and 10 rebounds, but also had 5 turnovers.
The Blazers were led by Jordan Swing who had a game high 24 points, to go along with 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 6 steals. Rod Rucker finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds, Fahro Alihodzic had 12 points and 8 rebounds, and Robert Williams had 11 points and 4 rebounds.
As a team the Miners shot 50% from the field, including 52.4% from 3 point range, while holding the Blazers to 47.5% and 42.0%, respectively. The Miners also won the rebounding battle 31-30, but missed 15 free throws, and committed 21 turnovers, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
Coach Floyd had this to say following the loss:
"Obviously it's a disappointing loss...We had many opportunities late in the half and late in the game to convert at the free throw line. On the eighth and nine fouls we missed the front end of one-and-ones. On the 10th foul we missed the first of two..."Give UAB credit for fighting, competing and taking advantage...We had 21 turnovers and their points off turnovers were very big. Give them credit for forcing those turnovers."
The Blazers should certainly be given credit for their effort, and taking advantage of the mistakes made by the Miners down the stretch. However, no credit should be given to them for the Miners' 15 missed free throws that could've, and should've iced the game.
Most knew coming in that this would be somewhat of a trap game for the Miners, but to see them build a solid lead midway through the second half, and then completely self destruct down the stretch was absolutely disappointing.
In the end, its just what you get from a young team. As disappointing and frustrating as it was, all you can do is write this one off as a learning experience, and get back to work, especially on free throws.
The Miners will now return home to El Paso, and the Don Haskins Center where they will play their next three contests, and four of their next five. The team will be in action Saturday against Tulane, and tipoff is slated for 7:05 p.m. MT.