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UTEP overwhelms FIU 83-71, cruises into semifinals

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One of the more complete efforts of the season moved UTEP past FIU into the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament.

Five Miners reached double figure scoring numbers, while defensively smothering FIU into a 37.5 percent shooting clip from the field, frustrating the Golden Panthers 83-71 in Thursday morning/afternoon's quarterfinal tilt.

Both teams came out with high energy that fueled urgency, as they traded first half blows until Julian Washburn nailed a trey that seemed to get things going in UTEP's favor.

Washburn's three gave UTEP a 23-18 lead at the 9:37 mark of the first half, the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year would follow that up with two more connections from three, also getting a three from Earvin Morris in the same stretch.

His third and final three of that sequence gave UTEP a 35-27 lead with 5:23 left in the half.

FIU would go scoreless in the final 3:13 of the first half, as UTEP finished the first frame on a 8-1 run to take a 47-33 lead into the break.  UTEP shot 67 percent from the field in the first half, including five three pointers on six attempts.

UTEP continued to be efficiently aggressive to the open the second half, frustrating FIU's Kris Gulley into a technical foul just 45 seconds into the half that seemingly shut down any chance of an early second half FIU comeback.

Omega Harris did not miss a single shot from the floor or free throw line in his first C-USA Tournament game.  The freshman scored 15 points, and pulled in five rebounds, drilling a three pointer that gave UTEP its largest lead of the game at 62-39 with 15:31 left in the game.

Harris would later add another three pointer to officially seal the deal in the final minute, though the outcome was never in doubt.  The Miners shot 8/12 from behind the three point line in the quarterfinal win.

FIU would trim the lead to 14 a handful of times in the second half, and would only get as close as 12 in the final 1:30 via 17 total UTEP turnovers.

Julian Washburn finished with a team high 19 points on 6/9 shooting, Vince Hunter added 16 points and three blocks, Earvin Morris chipped in 14 off the bench, 13 of which came in the first half, and Cedrick Lang put in 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists.

The Miners finished an efficient 61 percent from the field on just 41 attempts marking the second time this season they have shot over 61 percent, and despite allowing 18 offensive rebounds UTEP out rebounded FIU 34-29.

UTEP also swatted away a season high 10 blocks.

Dennis Mavin had to work for every single point of his 23 point total,  FIU ends their season with 16-17 overall record.  UTEP improves 12-1 this season when they hold their opponent to under 40 percent shooting, and 22-9 overall.

Efforts like this one puts UTEP on another level on the tough to beat ranking, UTEP will have to duplicate that effort tomorrow afternoon in the semi-finals against either Middle Tennessee or Old Dominion that will tip off at 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time, televised live on the CBS Sports Network.

Official box score

Postgame Press Conference