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UTEP Basketball: Deon Barrett arrives in UTEP's heartbreaking loss to New Mexico

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Alex Nicolas

Down by double digits in the opening stages of the second half, and thoughts of a possible comeback slowly fading away, UTEP needed a boost.

Whether it was on the defensive end, or the offensive end UTEP needed some life to close the gap and try to make things interesting.

Enter Deon Barrett.

When Barrett brought UTEP within 10 points at the 17:03 mark of the final half with his first of seven 3-pointers, it sparked a UTEP comeback, but it wasn't easy.

With keen ball movement, and effective defense, Barrett got going, cutting the lead to single digits and the rest is history.

Barrett had been providing steady reserve play as he gets his feet wet, but exploded on a big stage.

He tied Randy Culpepper's freshman record with seven makes from long distance, and it was either RC3 (most likely), Miguel Ayala, or Chris Craig who knocked down consecutive 3-pointers like Barrett did in my recent UTEP hoops memory.

Although, Barrett's special night came on the road, in one of the toughest environments UTEP will play in this year, and he also brought the Miners back from a double digit deficit with his lionhearted effort.

Everyone will look at his shooting numbers as evidence of his solid game, but his defense in the second half also spurred UTEP's comeback as the Lobos went on a field goal drought inside the final 10 minutes.

The Miners need a third scorer to emerge, and Barrett kicked that door down in the second half with some clutch shooting.

Every one of Barrett's 3-pointers didn't even hit the rim, and each were big-time, clutch daggers that ripped away the Lobos huge lead they built in the opening minutes of the game.

Another big aspect about Barrett's game is the no fear attitude he showed during his hot streak. Barrett has played on the big stage the past few years as a repeat state champion in Texas' 6A division.

So it's safe to say, the bright lights, and intimidating atmosphere brought out the best in Barrett as those type of situations usually bring out the Alpha Dogs no matter how inexperienced they are.

A loss is a loss, no matter how many moral victories were won on Wednesday. But Deon Barrett showed up sooner than later, giving UTEP some life to a season that appeared to be on life support in early December.

Miners prove me wrong

I gotta eat my own crow on this one, and am happy to do it.

I wrote in my game preview that if UTEP got down by more than eight, it's good night Miners.

Well….I was certainly wrong as UTEP drained the 3-ball, and contested almost every shot in the final 12 minutes of Wednesday's loss.

After UTEP trailed the Lobos 27-6 at the 12:27 mark of the first half, UTEP out scored New Mexico 61-38 over a 24:15 span that helped them grab a 67-65 lead after another 3-pointer from Barrett with 7:52 left in the game.

UTEP started 3-of-10 from the field during the Lobos early charge, but the Miners shot 51 percent during their almost 25 minute run.

This team had showed zero grit after falling behind to the Southeastern Louisiana's and Northwestern State's of the world. But this young group found themselves a niche, with grit, heart, and acceptable defense that gave them a chance for a road win.

That stretch was fun to watch as a lineup of Artis, Harris, Barrett, Matt Willms, and Kelvin Jones was able to space and run the floor, and also gave UTEP some rim protection on the defensive end.

Kudos, fellas, kudos.

Artis fills up the stat sheet

After the game, according to pictures it appeared no one took the loss harder than Dominic Artis.

Although the senior guard has nothing to hang his head about after another masterful point guard performance.

He dished out 12 assists, had five steals, and did a good job of finding the open man while New Mexico scrambled to close out on Barrett or Omega Harris.

Artis turned the ball over seven times in UTEP's last game, but Artis only committed three turnovers, and was a defensive factor as well.

There are many dynamics to Artis' game and it showed in a big way.

First half: UTEP needed buckets, Artis scored 13 points in a row during a 27-10 UTEP run which cut the lead down to four points.

Second half: UTEP needed a steady pace setter, and distributer. Artis handed out eight second half assists, and was a key component in UTEP's defensive game plan of changing defenses down the stretch.

No one works harder than Artis, and as I'm typing this I would not be surprised if Artis is at the free throw line inside the Foster-Stevens Center.

Late game situation thoughts

I'm all for letting things unfold, not letting the defense get a chance to set up, and crazy things happen in March when you don't call time out and have a shot at the win with less than 10 seconds left.

But a timeout should have called in this UTEP centric situation Wednesday night, in my opinion of course.

Artis actually got a decent look on the final play, the ball should have been in his hands, but Floyd should have drawn something up.

In the final three minutes, UTEP got away from what got them back in the game. Let the guards control the tempo, and space the floor.

The Miners came up empty on three straight half court trips while the game was tied at 72 (a missed layup from Willms stands out the most), thus Floyd should have recognized his squad had trouble manufacturing and executing good looks which was desperately needed in the that sequence.

Hard to say it would have worked, but when Neal called a timeout earlier in the same stretch, Floyd dialed up the perfect set as the Lobos doubled/ball watched Artis at the top of the key, and Barrett got free for a go ahead 3-poointer in the final minute.

It's always easy to question a coach, but even with Artis who is an established senior, Floyd could have drawn up a money play to at least try to manufacture at best a better and cleaner look closer to the basket.

And oh yeah, I think UNM set an illegal screen on Brown's jumper for the record…

Either way credit to Floyd for rounding up the troops and putting up a fight after things looked critical early on in the game, and after the past week of off court headlines.

We move on to NMSU…..