UTEP Falls to Charlotte in Conference USA Opener

Anthony Salom - MinerRush.com

The shorthanded Miners fought hard in their C-USA opener Thursday night at the Don, but it wasn't enough to overcome a tough Charlotte team as the 49ers escaped with the 73-68 win.

The Miners came out hot in the first ten minutes of the ballgame, and would even hold an early seven point lead, but Charlotte would end the first half on a 19-7 run and never look back the rest of the way en route to a 73-68 victory.

After falling behind 6-3 in the opening minutes, John Bohannon and Julian Washburn led the Miners on a 19-9 run to surge ahead 22-15 with exactly 10 minutes to play in the first half. That however, would be the largest lead the Miners would own on the night.

Charlotte quickly responded, as they used a 10-2 run over the next three minutes to pull ahead 25-24, and eventually finished the half on the aforementioned 19-7 run, owning a 34-29 lead at the intermission.

The Miners scored the first two buckets out of the break to bring the deficit back to a single point, but they wouldn't be able to get any closer than that. The 49ers answered back with seven points of their own, and quickly pushed their advantage to eight with just under 16 to play.

UTEP would continue to fight and stay within striking distance, but they wouldn't be able to come any closer than three the rest of the way, and would eventually fall by the final margin of five at 73-68.

Mike Thorne Jr. and Terrence Williams led the way for the 49ers, finishing with 16 points apiece. Thorne also had a monster night on the boards, finishing with 14. Pierria Henry finished with 13 and 7 assists, and Willie Clayton chipped in with 10.

John Bohannon led the way for the Miners, going for 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. Julian Washburn had 19 points of his own, but no other Miner scored in double figures. C.J. Cooper had 8.

Perhaps the biggest factor in this game was Charlotte's ability to control the glass. The 49ers dominated the Miners 41-27 on the boards, including 12-6 on the offensive end. The offensive boards allowed the 49ers 14 second chance points to just 6 for the Miners.

Coach Floyd had this to say following the loss:

"We didn't defend well enough to win...I thought they crushed us on the offensive boards late.  It seemed like we'd get a stop and Thorne or [Willie] Clayton would go back, get off the board and they'd get a score or a foul which is very disheartening...I thought it was about post play more than guard play tonight.  I thought it would be about guard play. They did a better job than us on the boards."

This was the Miners' first official game without dismissed players McKenzie Moore, Jalen Ragland, and Justin Crosgile, and it was clear that they will be missed. This team will quickly need to figure out where it will get its production from, and just who will step in to fill the created voids.

Bottom line, while its tough to accept any loss, one must applaud the effort from this team. John Bohannon and Julian Washburn stepped up exactly how you would hope your leaders would. Unfortunately, others behind them just couldn't find their rhythm.

As those others do find their rhythm, and as shots begin to fall, this will be a team that can still make some noise in Conference USA. This team may no longer have the depth most expected them to have heading into the season, but they've still got the heart and the talent.

Its simply time to get back to drawing board, and get back to work as a tough opening stretch to Conference USA play still awaits. The Miners will be back in action Saturday night against Marshall in the Don Haskins Center. Tipoff for that game is slated for 7:05 p.m. MT.

Make sure to stay tuned to MinerRush for coverage of all things UTEP sports. Also, make sure to on Twitter and as always don't forget to like our Facebook Page. Picks Up, and Go Miners!

Check out our postgame podcast brought to you by SB Nation and Blog Talk Radio! Have a listen.

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