Vince Hunter led all scorers with 22 points and Cedrick Lang followed with a big 16 point effort on a bummed ankle as the Miners improved to 7-3 in Conference USA play following a 63-56 victory over FAU.
Neither team was able to gain much of an advantage in the early going, as the Miners would strike first with a Vince Hunter layup, but they'd be unable to stretch their lead out to many more than those two points in the first 11 plus minutes of the game.
Florida Atlantic would take their first lead at 10-9 as the game neared the 13 minute mark, and they as well would have issues stretching their lead out much further than that.
The Owls would own their largest lead of the first half at 14-12 at the 11:52 mark, but about seven minutes later, UTEP would have turned in their largest lead, holding a 26-21 advantage as the half neared.
Florida Atlantic would answer right back though, closing the half on a 6-1 spurt that would send the two teams into the locker rooms knotted at 27.
The second half would provide more of the same. UTEP opened with the first three points of the half, but once again would struggle to create anymore separation, and would allow the Owls to jump back in front 35-34 following a C.J. Turman and-1 four minutes later.
The seesaw affair would continue with the teams trading leads three more times, while also sharing five ties over the final 14 minutes of the ball game.
However, it would be the Miners that would dig deep and surge ahead late, coming up with five crucial stops while knocking down 8-10 free throws down the stretch to turn a 54 all game into a 63-56 victory.
Vince Hunter would lead all scorers with 22 points, while also hauling in 9 rebounds. Cedrick Lang also had a huge performance, on one bad ankle, putting up a 16 point, 5 rebound stat line. No other Miner scored in double figures, but Hooper Vint did have a big 9 points and 6 rebounds, with all points coming in the first 20 minutes.
Justin Raffington had the hot hand for FAU, putting up a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Marquan Botley finished with 11 points, and Solomon Poole chipped in with 8.
The Miners shot 46.9% for the game, while holding FAU to just 39.3%, but they did struggle again from the free throw line missing a total of 10 of their 25 attempts. Neither team shot well from range with the Miners going 2-7 and FAU finishing 4-19. UTEP held slight advantages in both rebounding (35-34), and turnovers (11-13).
UTEP now improves to 15-7 overall and 7-3 in Conference USA play, just two games back of the lead in the league. Florida Atlantic falls to 8-12 overall, and just 1-8 in league action.
It would be very easy to feel frustrated with the way this game went, especially in seeing the Miners revert to the inconsistencies that have troubled them for so much of this season.
However, at some point, we do have to realize that this team is extremely depleted. Tonight we played just seven total players, and two of them (perhaps our best players right now) are clearly not at 100%.
It wasn't a great performance, but I'm glad we got this one out of the way against a struggling FAU team. Up next is a rising Florida International squad, and it will take a much better effort and all around team performance if the Miners are going to complete the road sweep.
The contest against FIU is Saturday in Miami, and tipoff is slated for 3:30 p.m. MT, with the American Sports Network once again providing the television coverage.
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