It was another poor offensive night for the Miners, but junior center John Bohannon had his game on point, and carried the Miners to a 63-53 win.
After struggling mightily on the offensive end in back to back road games, the Miners looked put those woes behind them with a home win against the Houston Cougars, and that's exactly what they did.
Both teams were sluggish early on, with Houston holding just a 6-5 lead more than seven minutes into the contest. But, it was the Miners who would find some offensive rhythm first as C.J. Cooper and Jalen Ragland combined for 15 points over the next five minutes of the game to give the Miners a 24-12 lead.
The Miners would eventually open up the lead to as many as 14 at 36-22, and enjoyed a 36-25 lead heading into the intermission.
UTEP came out cold out of the locker rooms, scoring only two points in the first four minutes of the second half. That slow start allowed Houston to cut the lead to just four at 43-39, but junior center John Bohannon and sophomore forward Cedrick Lang were just about to heat up.
The two combined for 23 of the Miners' 27 second half points, and scored all of the teams' points through the first 19 minutes of the final twenty. Their play allowed the Miners to regain their double digit lead, and walk away with the 63-53 victory.
Bohannon led the way for the Miners, finishing with career highs in both points (24) and rebounds (17), and also had 4 blocks, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Lang finished with a double double of his own, going for 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Jalen Ragland and C.J. Cooper finished with 9 and 8 points, respectively.
The Cougars were led by Joseph Young, who finished with 23 points, but he was the only Houston player to finish in double digits. TaShawn Thomas had 9 points and 8 rebounds, and Jherrod Stiggers finished with 7 points and 3 rebounds.
As a team, the Miners outrebounded the Cougars 40-31, and also forced them into 17 turnovers, compared to 13 of their own. Both teams had subpar shooting nights, as the Miners shot just 35.2% from the floor and 19% from three point land, while the Cougars shot 37.8% from the floor, and 36.4% from three.
Coach Tim Floyd had this to say following the game:
"We got a great performance from our two big guys tonight, they really did a nice job of facilitating...We’ve always said that when big guys rebound, they score. John had his best game as a Miner. I hope he remembers how the next time we play... We have been real consistent [defensively] our last four games, even in defeat...We’re going to have to hold onto this as our staple coming down the stretch and take it into the conference tournament, this defensive mindset and mentality to hold people to 38 percent and see if we can’t win games [that way]."
Although it wasn't pretty at times, it was nice to see the Miners come back with this type of win. As a team, it was a poor offensive effort, but guys like Bo and Ced really stepped up and put the team on their backs. That's exactly the kind of effort that the team will need on a regular basis moving forward.
The win improves the Miners to 15-12 overall, and 8-5 in conference play, while dropping Houston to 15-11, and 4-9. Just three games remain in the regular season, and solid performances in those might just give this team some real momentum heading into the conference tourney.
Up next, they'll be at Rice on Saturday, before returning home to play nationally ranked Memphis on Tuesday, in a game that many have been waiting for. Still though, the Owls should not be overlooked. They are a team that has continued to improve this season, and while their record doesn't show it, they are capable of picking up the win. Tipoff for that contest will be at 12:00 p.m. MT. Make sure to follow MinerRush for live coverage of the game.