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2014 Wooden Legacy: UTEP Holds Off Princeton 62-56

UTEP outlasts Princeton in a Wooden Legacy opening game slug fest.

Alex Nicolas-www,

Vince Hunter and Cedrick Lang each notched double-doubles to lead the Miners in closing out Princeton 62-56 in the opening round of the DIRECTV Wooden Legacy tournament.

The Miners would start fast with a triple by Julian Washburn to open up the scoring, then race out to an early 13-4 lead after Matt Willms found a cutting Vince Hunter for an easy layup at the 13:15 mark of the first frame.

Hunter would share the love with 5:53 left when he found Omega Harris in the corner who drilled a three pointer that gave UTEP a comfortable 20-12 lead.

A main theme of this Thanksgiving tilt was Princeton's ability to hang around with the three ball.

UTEP would only get one field goal to fall in the final three minutes of the half, while Princeton finished the half on an 8-2 run thanks to a pair of three pointers from Steven Cook, and Hans Brase cutting the UTEP lead to 23-20 at halftime.

With both teams playing tight defense, only three shots fell between both sides in the first three minutes of the second half, then Vince Hunter got the Miners going.

Hunter nailed a three pointer from the right wing that gave UTEP its largest second half lead to that point at 29-24, then after a pair of free throws from Omega Harris UTEP was out in front 31-24 with 15:51 left to play.

But the Princeton hanging around from outside the three point line theme would continue.

Henry Caruso spotted up a three pointer from the corner that cut the lead to 44-38 UTEP, though that dagger would be answered on the ensuing UTEP possession with a hard fought layup by Vince Hunter.

Brase would punch back with another Princeton trifecta, only to be answered once again by a deuce from around rim the by Hunter, but then Princeton made their move.

Trailing 48-41 with under six minutes left Amir Bell helped push a 6-0 Tiger swing with a jumper, and a pair of free throws that tightened things up at 49-47 in favor of the Miners as time now ticked to under three minutes left in the game.

Though thanks to clutch defensive rebounding by Hunter and Lang in final two minutes, and a game sealing three pointer by C.J. Cooper saw UTEP finish the game on a 9-2 run after Hunter slammed home a highlight worthy exclamation point that gave UTEP a late 60-49 lead with 33 seconds left.

Hunter finished with a game high 18 points, and 12 rebounds, Lang added 13 points, and 10 rebounds, while Cooper was 3/5 on his three point looks, and finished with 10 points and 3 assists in his California homecoming.

Princeton had four finish in double figures led by Caruso who came off the bench to score 15 points, Cook added 13 points, and Brase finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds for the Tigers who shot 35.6 percent from the field in the game.

UTEP out rebounded Princeton 35-30, though allowed 21 offensive rebounds that lead to a 12-5 Tiger advantage in second chance points.

A huge positive on the stat sheet was the 17 assists on 21 total field goals for UTEP, and the 47 percent mark the Miners shot in the second half as UTEP never trailed from the opening tip.

Omega Harris added 9 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds to the winning party, Julian Washburn struggled from the field after his early make from deep, though had 8 points, 5 assists and 2 steals with his always tough defensive assignment.

The Miners improve their record to 3-0 on the season, and will await the winner of Xavier and San Diego which is underway right now.

Game time tomorrow is set for 1:30 p.m. El Paso Time and will be shown on ESPN2.