It was another rough night for the 2016-17 UTEP basketball team.
UTEP missed 3-pointers when they were open, missed point blank, wide open layups around the rim, and once again could not string together enough stops as Maryland Eastern Shore picked up their first road win in 10 tries this year with a 71-66 dismantling of UTEP.
Both sides were sloppy, and out of rhythm early on as UTEP only scored five times on their first 15 offensive possessions scrapping their way to a 11-10 lead in the first seven minutes and change into the game.
UTEP’s struggles continued in bunches as they only mustered six field goals to go along with five turnovers on their first 21 possessions, and trailed 18-13 after a layup by Maryland Eastern Shore’s Derrico Peck at the 8:11 mark of the first half.
Maryland Eastern Shore shot an ice cold 34.4 percent in the first half, but led for 14:29, and took a 32-29 edge into the halftime break despite shooting 4-for-17 from behind the 3-point arch.
Matt Willms scored 10 points in the opening half, but UTEP committed eight first half turnovers and went 11-for-27 from the floor in the first half.
Things would get worse for UTEP in the second half, a 3-pointer from Logan McIntosh put the Fighting Hawks ahead 45-36 at the 14:26 mark of the second half.
Tim Floyd called a timeout to scream at a ref, and the Miners actually came out with some fire out of that timeout.
The Miners would have an answer to the nine point hole with six straight to cut the lead to just three (45-42), then Paul Thomas took over and gave UTEP their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Thomas would score nine points in a four minute stretch, with a three-point play off a post move pushing UTEP ahead 49-48 with 9:19 left in the game.
The lead changed hands 18 times in the game, and it was tied nine times as things went down to the wire, but it was the Fighting Hawks who shook off those losing demons and put one in the win column.
UTEP took a 61-60 lead with a pair of free throws from Trey Touchet, but Bakari Copeland would hit a 3-point dagger, then Peck slammed one down as the Hawks led 65-61 with just 1:32 to go, and the bed appeared to be made.
Touchet would then muscle up for a tough layup to cut the lead down to 65-63 with 56 seconds left. Although UTEP would trail 69-63 with a missed 3-pointer from Deon Barrett marking UTEP’s last ditch effort to close the gap in the final 15 seconds.
Both Paul Thomas and Matt Willms fouled out down the stretch as both provided major sparks down the stretch, but the Hawks were poised, and made their last four free throws to close things out.
Copeland finished with 27 points, and seven rebounds for the Hawks who only turned it over six times in the game, and shot 37.5 percent from the floor.
UTEP controlled the boards with a 44-31 edge, but shot 3-for-17 from 3-point distance, and went 1-for-10 in the second half. UTEP turned it over 14 times in the game, but used 14 second chance points to keep themselves within striking distance.
Willms led UTEP with 16 points, and seven rebounds, clearly battling his multiple injuries, but was very effective and showed tons of heart as a positive mark.
Thomas finished with 13 points, and five rebounds in just 18 minutes. Dominic Artis scored 13 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Omega Harris added 12 points, and six rebounds.
UTEP’s losing increases to seven, and they will host UC Irvine at 5 p.m. tomorrow in the consolation game.