Julian Washburn tallied 20 points on 8-13 shooting, and four of five Miner starters scored in double figures, as UTEP advanced past East Carolina 77-68 in the second round of the Conference USA tournament.
It was all Miners in the early going. Back to back buckets by Washburn to open the contest gave UTEP a five point lead, and while ECU's Caleb White answered with a three to get the Pirates on the board, the Miners would be up by double figures at 15-5 by the 15:27 mark.
The Miners would continue to extend that lead, turning a 5-5 tie into a 24-6 lead over a span of 8:27. Washburn accounted for eight of the Miners' points during that run, and 13 of their overall 24 to that point.
UTEP would use stifling defense and solid offense to keep the Pirates at bay, and would eventually hold a 42-26 advantage as the teams headed into the locker rooms.
The second half started much the same as the first. Back to back buckets by Matt Willms put the Miners ahead 51-28 with 16:45 to play, and while the Pirates would make the score look a little more respectable after that, this game was never in any question.
By the eight minute mark, Coach Floyd had Aaron Jones, Tevin Caldwell, Hooper Vint, Jake Flaggert, and Cedrick Lang on the court. That group would maintain the Miners' lead for much of the remainder of the game, but some late threes by the Pirates would bring them back to within reach at 72-59 with 2:49 to play.
Julian Washburn led the way with a game high 20 points to go along with 3 assists and no turnovers. John Bohannon added a double-double, going for 15 points and 11 rebounds, Vince Hunter finished with 12, and Matt Willms chipped in with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
For the game, the Miners shot 51.8% from the field, while holding ECU to 43.1%, including just 33.3% in the first twenty minutes. UTEP also won the rebounding battle 37-30, had 15 assists to 11 for the Pirates, and also forced ECU into 14 turnovers while committing 11 of their own.
The win, and more importantly the energy and intensity, were exactly what the doctor ordered for the Miners. Its never easy to win four games in four days, no matter where you're playing, but its even harder to do it with a team as thin as the Miners are.
In recent games, the Miners seemed to have a lack of intensity on their home floor, and it showed in a narrow win against Rice, and losses to both FAU and Tulsa. It was only natural to wonder whether this team would show more of the same in this one, but that certainly wasn't the case.
The Miners opened up playing well on both ends of the floor, and continued that throughout the contest. Also, Julian Washburn not only played a hell of a game on the offensive end, but also showed why he should've been considered for defensive POY in the league, holding Akeem Richmond to just 5 points for the majority of the game (He scored 36 last night).
The win advances the Miners into the third round of the Conference USA tournament, and sets up a date with arch nemesis Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles beat the Miners in Hattiesburg just three weeks ago, and have taken three straight from them as well.
UTEP has not knocked off Southern Miss since February 22nd, 2012, in a contest in El Paso that finally ended after two overtimes. The game tomorrow between the 5th seeded Miners and 4th seeded Golden Eagles is set to tip off at 6:00 p.m. MT.)
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