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UTEP Makes Statement With 89-79 Dismissal of Louisiana Tech

With great performances by just about the entire Miner team, UTEP raced ahead of La Tech and never looked back Thursday night at the Don.

Tom Gonzalez -

It was a wild night in The House That Don Built; explosive offense, great defense, plenty of questionable calls, and 8,300 screaming fans sums up the 500th UTEP win in the Don Haskins Center.

It was La Tech who would open up hot, nailing their first four attempts from deep, and jumping out to an early 14-9 lead. But, as we've seen time and time again over the last few weeks, it takes a lot more than that to rattle this team.

The Bulldogs would stay fairly hot through the first 12 minutes of the opening half, but the Miners stayed close, and eventually took the lead at 23-21 with 8:11 left.

The two continued to trade blows for the remainder of the first twenty minutes, but the Miners would use a quick 7-0 run to open up a 38-31 lead, and would eventually hold a 43-36 advantage heading into the locker rooms.

La Tech opened the second stanza in the same manner they did the first, with a three pointer that quickly cut UTEP's lead to four. The Miners would respond though, using an 8-0 run to push their lead up to double digits at 12 with 16:54 remaining.

The Bulldogs wouldn't go away quietly, but the Miners showed great poise and maturity, weathering a handful of storms, and keeping them at bay for just about the rest of the game.

La Tech would pull to within to five when the officiating, to say the least, got a bit questionable, but the Miners wouldn't fold, and quickly stretched their lead back to 12 on a C.J. Cooper layup with 3:32 remaining.

Vince Hunter would put the exclamation point on the win, with a handful of impressive dunks in the closing moments, and the Miners walked away with the 89-79 victory.

Vince Hunter, who reached a new career high on the night, led the way for the Miners with 26 points and 9 rebounds, on 8-12 from the field. Julian Washburn also had a huge night, joining the 1000 point club while going for 21 points on 7-12 shooting.

C.J. Cooper hit a number of big shots, and finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals, while John Bohannon racked his 7th double-double of the season, going for 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs were led by Chris Anderson and Alex Hamilton, who both finished with 17 points and 3 rebounds, respectively. Jaron Johnson finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds.

For the game, the Miners shot a blistering hot 56% from the field, while holding Louisiana Tech to just 42.4%. The rebounding battle ended a draw, at 40 apiece, as did turnovers as both teams had 14.

Coach Floyd had this to say following the win:

"It's a quality win for us against a very good Louisiana Tech team. To win we had to have really good backcourt play because we played against a full court press all night long...Julian just keeps getting better and better as a secondary ballhandler...and C.J. really just did a quality job all night long...Vince was just terrific. We're watching greatness get better every night...We'll enjoy this one tonight. We've got to go practice again tomorrow, and get ready for a Rice team the beat Charlotte...None of them are easy."

Indeed none of them are easy, but this is clearly a team that is playing with a ton of confidence, and that just continues to get better as the season wears on, even when the going gets tough.

C.J. Cooper spoke a little about that following the game:

"When stuff like that happens, we just come together, and we tell each other we can't fold right now. We got to keep playing hard, no matter what's going on. We want to win. We know people out here are counting us out, thinking we can't win. We're just getting together and staying focused."

It was a huge win for the Miners, and one that improves them to 15-6, 5-1 on the season, but more importantly propels them into a tie for first place in Conference USA. Up next, they'll wrap up a three game homestand with a game against Rice on Saturday, then it's back on the road to face ECU and Old Dominion.

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