Vince Hunter picked up his 10th double-double of the season, but the Miners scored just 12 points in the second half as La Tech easily pulled away for the 58-45 win Thursday night in the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners didn't have much trouble out of the gates as they scored 9 points in the first four plus minutes of the game. A C.J. Cooper three would give them a 9-8 lead with 15:40 left in the 1st, but they'd go cold from there.
Lousiana Tech would use a quick 11-4 run to go up 19-13 near the 9 minute mark, and they'd extend their lead out to as many as 10 at 28-18 following a Kenneth Smith made jumper with 4:20 left in the half.
UTEP would finish the half on a 15-3 run to pull even at 33-33 heading into the locker rooms, but that would be the last sighting of the Miners on the night.
The second twenty minutes would start much the way the first did with both teams trading baskets for the first five minutes. And, the trends continued as the Miners would once again go cold, scoring just three points over more than an 8 minute stretch midway through the final half.
That stretch would put UTEP in a 49-40 hole with under seven minutes to play, and despite pulling to within five just over a minute later, it would turn out to be a deficit the Miners couldn't overcome.
The Miners would hit just 1-5 free throws in the final eight minutes of the game, including three missed front ends of 1 and 1's, and would score just a single point over the last 5:51 en route to a 58-45 loss in their conference home opener.
Vince Hunter led the way for the Miners, scoring 16 points while hauling in 11 rebounds, but was the only Miner to score in double figures, and went just 1-4 from the line (two front ends missed). Earvin Morris finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds.
Raheem Appleby led all scorers with a game high 22 points, and also brought down 5 rebounds. Eric McCree finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, and Alex Hamilton chipped in with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The Miners shot just 37.3% from the field, and 14.3% from the free throw line (1-7), while Louisiana Tech finished shooting 41.4% from the field and 100% from the line (5-5). The Miners also hit 6-16 free three point range while the Bulldogs hit 5-14.
La Tech held a 36-34 advantage on the boards, had 8 steals to just 1 for the Miners and finished with just 8 turnovers to 13 for UTEP.
The loss drops UTEP to 10-5 on the season and 2-1 in Conference USA play. Louisiana Tech improves to 11-4 and 2-0 in league action.
Overall, this was a very uninspired and disappointing effort from the Miners. Of course, credit must be given to Louisiana Tech, but this effort should go down as one of the worst ever under coach Tim Floyd.
The UTEP offense was stagnant the entire game, and the Bulldogs just seemed to want it more than the Miners did. Hard to say why there seemed to be such a lack of effort, but that just will not get it done in league play.
Southern Miss will visit the Don on Saturday in a game that should allow the Miners to get back on track, but another performance like this and the Miners might wind up having their hands full. Tipoff for that game is slated for 7:00 p.m. MT.
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