When UTEP trailed by 21 points just seven and a half minutes into the game, it looked bad, real bad.
But, Deon Barrett arrived in the second half although it wouldn’t be enough as New Mexico’s star guard Elijah Brown hit a deep jumper with 5.8 seconds left to lift the Lobos over the Miners 78-77.
Its was a horrid start for UTEP as once again the Miners looked lost, and the Lobos were off and running early on.
UTEP only mustered a deep jumper from Paul Thomas for the only score on their first eight possessions of the game, while the Lobos scored on six of their first eight offensive trips and jumped out to a 15-2 lead just four minutes and change into the game.
Seven of the Lobos first 15 points came off UTEP turnovers, as a 2:17 scoring drought from UTEP stretched the Lobo lead to 17-2.
But then Omega Harris and Dominic Artis got the offense going, and made it a game again with a strong run to answer the Lobos strong start.
The Lobos would stretch the lead to 27-6 after a 3-pointer from Dane Kuiper at the 12:27 mark of the first half, although Harris would make the first move from long distance as UTEP cut into what looked like a lead that would never be trimmed down.
Harris would score nine straight points for the Miners cutting the lead to 30-18 with a layup after he forced a steal as the clock ticked to under nine minutes left in the first half.
Artis would then score UTEP’s next 13 points, with his second 3-pointer in the sequence bringing UTEP with two possessions down 37-33 with 3:31 left until halftime.
All in all, UTEP went on a 27-10 spurt in a 8:27 span after New Mexico built that early 21-point lead as the Lobos went into a 4-of-15 funk from the field during the Miners run.
UTEP also shot 6-of-11 from long distance in the opening half with Harris scoring 14, and Artis scoring all 13 of his points in a five minute stretch during UTEP’s first half run.
Brown scored 16 first half points helping the Lobos stretch their lead to 47-39 at halftime.
The Lobos extended their lead to 57-44 after Obij Aget posterized Kelvin Jones with a two hand slam at the 16:04 mark of the second half, but then a star was born for the Miners.
After Harris knocked one down from deep, Barrett knocked down his second 3-pointer of the half to cut the lead to 59-50 with just under 14 minutes left to play, and he was just getting started.
That would start a 23-8 UTEP run in an almost seven minute span, led by Barrett who made six in a row from deep in the second half, the fifth continued to fuel UTEP’s run and put UTEP ahead 67-65 after crisp ball movement found Barrett wide open from the right wing with 7:52 to play.
Barrett extended the lead to 70-67 with his sixth straight 3-pointer at the 6:28 mark of the second half as the final six minutes turned into a slug fest and free throw shooting contest UTEP would end up losing.
The Lobos would only make three field goals in the final eight minutes of the game as UTEP continually switched defenses, but missed plenty of opportunities on the offensive end to close things out down the stretch, including a botched one-and-one chance.
With the game tied at 72 heading into the final four minutes, UTEP came up empty on three straight opportunities to grab the lead, but Barrett eventually got free for a layup off a long rebound and assist from Artis to go up 74-72 with 1:26 left.
Sam Logwood tied the game with a tough 16-foot jumper from the left wing on the Lobos next trip. After the Lobos called a timeout, Artis was doubled at the top of the key and kicked it to Barrett who drilled a wide open left wing 3-pointer to silence The Pit and give UTEP a 77-74 edge with 30 seconds left.
Jordan Hunter then worked his way down the lane for a layup to cut the lead to 77-76 on the ensuing possession, and Artis went to the line for a one-and-one with 18 seconds left.
Artis missed the front end, Brown then came down the floor and around a funny looking screen, fired up a left-handed jumper with his foot on the 3-point line with 5.8 seconds left, and bang.....the Lobos took the late lead.
UTEP had one timeout left, but Floyd opted let things play out as Artis missed a tough look from 3-point land from around the top of the key ending UTEP’s hard fought effort.
Barrett ended the night with 25 points, he went 7-for-8 from 3-point range all coming in the second half. He also dished out three assists without a turnover in 19 minutes.
Harris hit four 3-pointers and finished with 22 points, and also did not commit a turnover. Artis scored 13 points, and dished out 12 assists for the double-double.
UTEP hit 15 of their 29 3-point attempts, and dished out 22 assists on 27 made field goals, ending the night with a 46.6 shooting percentage in the game.
Brown matched Barrett with 25 points leading the Lobos who shot 56.8 percent from the field and out rebounded UTEP 31-26.
Despite being out rebounded, UTEP held a 13-7 advantage in second chance points on just eight offensive rebounds.
It was an encouraging effort after a rough past few weeks, but the Miners could not close things out on either end of the floor to drop their fourth straight game.
UTEP returns to action next Tuesday against NMSU at the Don.