Post Touches For the Win
There was an obvious emphasis Thursday night in the Don Haskins Center.
Inside-out ball movement that has helped UTEP shoot for a high percentage over the past couple of years seemed to be ingrained in this young UTEP squad over the past week of practices.
"That was definitely a concerted effort," Hooper Vint said. "That's how we like to start it, inside out. That's the best three in basketball, inside out. We started the game that way and Omega knocked it down. Omega ended up making three in a row."
Omega Harris did start the party with a pair of three's, but the focus was to get the ball inside. Even when FAU made their five minute run to open the second half, UTEP didn't panic, they just got the ball inside to Hooper Vint.
"Play through the post and give it to them and get it going in and out so we can get a feel throughout the game." Omega Harris said of the game plan. "Hooper got it going tonight so you got to keep feeding the hot hand."
Vint's aggressive play was a big key, and it started early on off a put back dunk off an offensive board.
As FAU crept within striking distance, Vint scored with his back to basket five times in a span of a couple of minutes, adding a pair of free throws for his 12 second half points.
He pushed around Ronald Delph with ease and athletic aggression, Terry Winn also was productive with three baskets in the paint, grabbing six rebounds in the process.
"I thought the fact that were throwing the ball inside more is helping us settle down a little bit." Tim Floyd said. "It helped our shooting percentage, we shot 50 percent, but a guy who is shooting 54 percent for us in Hooper Vint took the most attempts, and that's how it should be."
"We're getting more touches in areas where we should be getting touches." Floyd added.
UTEP scored 18 points in the paint in the first half, and 22 in the second half, dominating the paint since Terry Winn scored UTEP's first bucket a few seconds after the opening tip off.
Vint continues his strong stretch of play, showing aggression and efficiency that is much needed.
"He was kind of soft on his first two posts to start the (second) half." Floyd said of Vint. "And I thought he really came back and played with some aggression, and played with some explosion and some athleticism."
Omega starts fast, guards respond
From behind the three point line, to the free throw line, Omega Harris dominated the first half.
O hit his first three looks from downtown, got to the free throw line six times, making all six, and also didn't turn the ball over, and recorded two steals in the first half.
Harris' start was a product of a Tim Floyd challenge to his talented sophomore guard.
"It was kind of like a pregame ritual that I started today." When Harris was asked what got him going early in the game. "Coach said I wasn't playing like I have been, so I had to change up some things that I was doing, and fix it."
Getting some extra shots up was a part of that ritual, and led to an overall solid floor game which ended up trickling down to the other guards on both ends of the floor.
"We really shared the ball." Floyd said. "Lee Moore had four big time assists in the second half. Lee Moore and Dominic played really good floor games. Omega played with a lot of energy, played well offensively. So our guard play was improved."
It wasn't all about offense though.
UTEP's guards did a much better job of getting back in transition, something Tim Floyd thinks offensive spacing, and shot selection from his guards had something to do with the improved transition defense.
"We got back defensively we didn't give up a lot of points in transition." Floyd said. "We didn't shoot shots when guys weren't in a position to offensive rebound, and we knew that we now had floor space in order to be able get back defensively, get settled down and do a job there."
Omega is starting to become a consistent catalyst and continues to improve his basketball IQ, another important aspect that has to show up nightly for this team.
"Organizational part of things"
From an in the stands prospective, UTEP got back to the basics of making the right pass, executing in the open floor, making free throws, and getting back on defense.
UTEP also out rebounded FAU, scored on 50 percent of their possessions, all while playing smart basketball.
"The organizational part of things you know, when they made a little run at us it was about defensive errors." Floyd said. "Again it was about missed layups, and here you go. But we fought through it and continued to play."
Not only was UTEP mentally strong to weather the FAU run and take a 28-point lead after leading by nine, UTEP's guard were strong in their decision making throughout the 40-minutes, helping the offensive side move efficiently.
"I thought in situations where we were 3-on-5 we decided not to go and dribble between eight guys and crank one up." Floyd said. "We decided to kick it out, throw it to the post and go play off it, and as result we won the rebounding game.
Smart offensive efficiency is a key in the rebounding battle, but more so in getting good looks and making teams grab the ball out of the net, instead of off the rim.
Making shots are nice like the opening minutes of the game, but playing smart, and efficient basketball separates a regular win, from an encouraging win after a rough stretch of losses.