The Miners had complete control of this ball game, for about the first 20 seconds. The game opened with a steal by Julyan Stone that translated into a quick 2-0 lead for the Miners. That was the biggest lead the Miners would enjoy the entire morning. The game was knotted at 13-13 with about 12:00 to go in the first half, when the Knights caught fire and went on a 26-12 run to take a 14 point lead into the locker rooms. First half stats had the Knights shooting a white hot 67%, compare to the Miners 33%.
The second half started very similar to the way the first had ended. UCF once again came out firing, scoring the first 5 points to take their largest lead at 44-25 with 17 minutes left in the ball game. Then the Miners finally came alive a bit getting the deficit back into single digits at 52-44 with under 10 to go, but it just wasn't enough as the Knights responded to put the lead back up to 15 with only 6 minutes left in the ball game. The Miners used one last run to get the lead to 67-58 with 2:01 remaining, but eventually the clock hit triple zeros leaving the Miners 6 points short in a 74-68 loss.
Randy Culpepper led the way for the Miners with a game high 25 points, but was rendered relatively ineffective down the stretch after a couple of quick questionable calls left the star guard with 4 fouls with 9 minutes to play. Julyan Stone had 16 points and 3 rebounds, and Jeremy Williams also had a solid game with 15 points and 5 boards. Sophomore F Keith Clanton filled up the stat sheet for the Knights with 15 points and 13 boards, and Marcus Jordan followed that up with 13 points and 3 rebounds of his own.
The Miners (8-4), who came into the contest in the driver's seat in Conference USA, now fall back into a three way tie for third with Tulsa and Memphis, a half game back of leaders UAB (9-4) and Southern Miss (9-4). UTEP has now lost two out of three, and three of six dating back to January 29th. The Miners now head to Greensboro, NC to take on a struggling, but dangerous ECU squad, before returning home to play Memphis and Marshall in the coming week.
Needless to say this was an extremely disappointing loss. Some might say it was the fact that it was on a Monday morning, but UCF had to deal with it just the same, and they came out and flat out kicked our butts. Some might blame it on the refs, and even though it was an extremely inconsistent and poorly officiated game, it went both ways in my opinion. The fact is that we came out, completely unready to play, and UCF took full advantage of that. The Miners missed probably close to 10 layups in the first half, all at the same time allowing too many easy buckets on the other end. That will certainly dig you a nice hole to play out of.
There's really nothing more to be said. The Miners got flat out outplayed, and now is not the time to make excuses. It is the "time to look in the mirror, and determine what we want out of this season". The USM loss may have done it, but this one was pretty much the nail in the coffin for the Miner's at large hopes. The Miners almost certainly must win the conference tournament, or they will find themselves playing in the NIT. To be honest, the loss might have been a good thing in that sense. They had been undefeated on their home court in conference play, and maybe, just maybe this loss will give them a taste in their mouth that they never want to taste again.