On the opening night of the Bank of the West Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, the Miners came out and did little to impress, but did take care of business with a 30 point victory. This one seemed to be in the books even before the opening tip, as the Mustangs came in greatly undersized and over matched. The Miners raced out to a 16-4 lead, before turning that into a 41-26 halftime advantage.
The second half was more of the same as the Miners used a quick 10-2 run to extend their lead into the 20s, and they never looked back. Freshman John Bohannon continues to improve, and had another impressive outing as he put up 20 points to go along with 14 rebounds. Gabe McCulley, who is quickly becoming a force on this team, ended his night with a solid 14 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks. Christian Polk and Claude Britten both had 11 points, while Senior star Randy Culpepper was quiet with only 6 points. In the end, it went down in the books as an 87-58 victory on 43.7% shooting from the field. Sounds like a solid night at the office, but those final statistics do little to tell the story of this one.
No disrespect intended to WNM, but the Miners should have beat this team by 60 points. They literally looked like a high school team out there. Even assistant coach Phil Johnson stated in the post game radio report that he didn't think this team would win a state title in Texas on any level of high school basketball. I don't know how true that is, but the point is very valid.
This team had no business being in a game against a solid division 1 opponent, with so much returning talent and experience. I remind you that the Mustangs were down by only 15 at halftime, and they actually won the rebounding battle in the first half 24-22. The Miners wound up edging WNM in boards 50-49 for the game, but that is completely unacceptable against a team so much smaller than you, especially when 19 of those rebounds came on the offensive end.
Over the last three games the Miners have just seemed completely flat, and that's something that they need to break out of really quickly here. Conference play is approaching fast, and it opens with games against Tulsa, and at UAB, teams that will definitely beat us if we play the way we have been. Randy Culpepper continued to struggle, as he is now 3-21 from the field over the last two games. Christian Polk, who started the season shooting impressively from deep, has also been struggling as of late, but did knock down 3-7 from deep last night.
The Miners showed such promise in the first ten games of the season, but have shown something much less than that in the last three. Regardless, they need to turn it around quickly. They will face a game, Air Force Falcon team in the championship of the Sun Bowl Invitational tonight at 7:30. The Falcons defeated Sam Houston State 76-65 last night in the second game of the opening round. The Miners and Falcons also met in the championship game of this tournament one year ago, a game which the Miners won 58-47. Tickets still remain, so get yours and be out there supporting the Miners.