The Miners came out ready to play Saturday, getting back to the Miner basketball we here in El Paso love to see. The Miners jumped out to a 7-0 lead, before the Tigers made a run of their own to take a 12-9 lead. From then on it was all Miners. UTEP went on a 24 to 8 run to end the half, and take a 33-20 lead into the locker rooms. The Miners shot a decent 40% from the field in the first twenty, while holding the Tigers to an ice cold 28%. Defense was the name of the game, and truth is if not for a slew of missed free throws, this would've been a 20 point game at the half.
The Tigers came out with a bit of life in the opening minutes of second half, cutting the lead to 8 at 41-33 with 15 minutes remaining, but that was as close as they would get. The Miners would go on a 13-1 run to open the lead up to 20 points, and put the C-USA leaders in their rear view mirror. The Tigers had absolutely no answer for the Miners' defensive intensity, and it translated to their lowest scoring output in 6 years. In the end the Miners recorded a 74-47 victory, a much needed breath of air after a couple of sluggish weeks.
The Miners were again led by senior G Randy Culpepper who registered 20 points, to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. John Bohannon had a great game going for 15 points and 3 rebounds, in only 19 minutes of action, and Memphis native Jeremy Williams had 14 points and 6 boards, including some big threes for Miners. Memphis was only able to put one player in double figures, Will Barton had 10 points. Tarik Black and Joe Jackson both had 8 points, respectively.
It was nice to see the Miners get back to playing the type of basketball they had played for the majority of the season. Tough hard nosed defense, and efficient unselfish play on the offensive end. Something that has to be mentioned is how much of a team effort this was. As already mentioned Randy, John Bo, and Jeremy were very productive, but so were a handful of others.
Namely Isaac Gordon. The senior G came in and played some great minutes with a stat line of 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. What a game for him. He showed he can handle, and deserves, an upgraded roll on this team. Gabe McCulley again made his impact felt with a couple of big buckets to go along with 6 boards, and Julyan Stone again was his usual self going for 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Up next for the Miners will be another test against a tough team out of the eastern division of C-USA in the Marshall Thundering Herd. The Herd will prove to be a very tough opponent. They have already picked up wins over Memphis, Southern Miss, and West Virginia, and bring a five game win streak into El Paso. A couple bounces their way, and they could've easily been a strong contender in the C-USA title chase.
Wednesday night's game will be the last home game for 8 great seniors, so if you can make it, go. We need to send these guys off in style. The Miners will get back to their usual 7:05 tip time after a few games with odd start times. The Miners are now 21-8, 9-5, and a game out of first place. We'll need this one, and the last to not only contend for a C-USA title, but to solidify a bye in the opening round of the C-USA tournament. One thing is for sure, if we play like we played today, no one in this conference will beat us, much less on our home floor.