Julian Washburn netted 15 points and Cedrick Lang put in 13 of his own, but it wasn't enough to overcome an early 15 point deficit as the Miners watched a final second desperation three clank off the rim in a 65-62 loss at Colorado State.
Both teams started slow, with the game being knotted at five about four minutes in, but it wouldn't take long for the Rams to get going from there. They'd use a 13-2 run over the next four minutes and would own a 18-7 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the first half.
The onslaught would continue, as by the six minute mark the Miners would own eight big turnovers, allowing Colorado State to extend its lead all the way out to 15 at 30-15.
Tim Floyd would switch things up for the rest of the half, sitting Vince Hunter and going small with three and four guard lineups. That unit would chip away at the Ram lead and a Lew Stallworth tre would bring the Miners back to within five at 33-28 heading into the half.
Colorado State would strike first out of the locker rooms on a Stanton Kidd jumper, but five straight by Washburn would quickly get the Miners within two at 35-33 with still 17:42 left in the ball game.
The Miners would have multiple opportunities to tie or take the lead on the next three possessions, but would be unable to capitalize. Back to back buckets by the Rams' J.J. Avila and Tiel Daniels would stretch the lead back to six, and a similar trend would continue the rest of the game.
A pair of Lang free throws with 13:02 to play would get the Miners to within one at 41-40, but again multiple empty possessions gave Colorado State an opportunity to once again extend their lead.
The teams would go back and forth with Colorado State stretching their lead back out to as many as eight at 58-50 after a Daniel Bejarano made three with 7:30 left in the game.
UTEP would again chip away at the lead and would find themselves down just three, with the ball, with 18 seconds left in the game. Tim Floyd elected not to call his final timeout, but nothing came of the possession for the Miners. A desperation three by C.J. Cooper rimmed off and Colorado State escaped 65-62.
Julian Washburn, who was the only offensive threat for the Miners for much of the first half, led the way with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Cedrick Lang finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds, and Matt Willms had a big game finishing with 11 points and 7 boards.
Colorado State was led by J.J. Avila who finished with a game high 20 points and 9 rebounds. Stanton Kidd finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds, and Gian Clavell chipped in with 13 points and 4 rebounds.
The Miners shot 46% from the field, including 40% from three point range, but finished just 54.5% from the foul line. Colorado State shot 48% from the field, 46.7% from range and 55.6% from the line.
The Rams dominated the boards, finishing with a 39-26 advantage, including 11 on the offensive end. UTEP finished the game with 12 turnovers to 17 for CSU, while the Rams had 19 assists to 13 for the Miners.
At first glance, the stats seem to show a fairly even ball game, as does the final score. However, they aren't at all telling of just how this game went.
The vast majority of the Miners' turnovers came in the first 15 minutes of the game, where Colorado State opened up a 15 point lead. That lead just proved too much to overcome.
Also, the Miners missed 7 of their last 11 free throws, including one front end of a one and one, all in the last eight minutes of the game. Colorado State on the other hand, hit 10 of 13 free throws down the stretch.
Officiating was absolutely horrible in the game, especially against the Miners in the early going of the second half. Things did even out a bit, but the Rams found themselves in the double bonus with about 13 minutes left to play, and that surely proved to be an advantage.
Still though, this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of the Miners, and perhaps even more on the shoulders of Tim Floyd and his coaching staff.
The Miners are starting to make a habit of getting off to slow starts, and playing sloppy in the early going. That may not hurt you against inferior opponents, but we've seen the last two games that will simply not get it done against better teams.
Its time to get back to the drawing board and rebound from a pair of extremely disappointing losses. A team that arguably should be 6-0, now finds themselves at 4-2, with another tough road matchup at New Mexico State looming Saturday. Tipoff for that contest is slated for 7:00 p.m. MT.
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