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UTEP Basketball: Guards finish off Southern Miss 78-73

UTEP survived Southern Miss. 78-73 with key guard play down the stretch.

Dominic Artis scored his game high 18 points all in the final 11 minutes of the game, as UTEP held off a hard fighting Southern Miss squad 78-73 Thursday night in the Don.

Four Miners reached double figures, Lee Moore scored 17 points, Omega Harris added 13, and Terry Winn chipped in 10 points, and seven rebounds for UTEP who has now won five straight.

UTEP would start 6-of-13 from the field in the opening minutes, as it took Southern Miss almost six minutes to score, meanwhile UTEP jumped out a 15-2 lead at the 13:56 mark of the first half.

The Golden Eagles started 0-of-7 from the field, and back-to-back triples by Lee Moore put UTEP comfortably ahead 23-12 at 7:37 mark.

It looked like UTEP was well on their way to an easy fifth straight win, but Southern Miss would outscore UTEP 14-6 in the next stretch capped off by a three pointer from Khari Price to trim what was a double digit lead to a 29-28 UTEP edge with 2:27 left until halftime.

UTEP owned a 35-27 rebounding edge in the game, and used six second chance points in the first half to hold a slim 36-34 lead at halftime.

Southern Miss came out on fire in the second half, making three in a row from the field with the third being a triple from Micheal O'Donnell that put the Golden Eagles ahead 46-40 at the 14:39 mark of the second half.

UTEP had trouble guarding Southern Miss on the drive all night, and had trouble taking care of the ball during a second half stretch as the Golden Eagles took a 50-43 lead after a steal and an easy layup by Cortez Edwards as things approached the 11 minute mark.

But then, Artis and UTEP's guards collectively got going.

Artis was 0-of-5 from the field at the 11:21 mark of the second half, and just needed to see the ball go through the rim to get going.

After an Omega Harris three pointer cut the USM lead to 52-50, Artis would get a friendly roll on a floater in the lane which started a four in a row stretch of buckets for DA, putting UTEP back in front 58-56 with 6:32 left to play thanks to his fourth make in a row.

Earvin Morris would then knock down a 3-pointer off an assist from Artis to cap off an 11-4 UTEP spurt, then boom, UTEP led 61-56 with 6:09 left.

Although Doc Sadler's group wasn't finished.

Price would score five straight for USM with a 3-pointer cutting the lead to 63-61, then Jackson blew by two UTEP defenders for layup just two minutes later to cut the lead to 66-65 at the 2:44 mark.

UTEP committed 13 turnovers in the game, but did not commit a single turnover in the final three minutes, as they withstood USM cutting the lead down to just three points twice in the final 20 seconds with five made free throws in a row.

The key stat of the game was UTEP's 15 second chance points, they also shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the second half, and were 5-of-11 from behind the three point line in the final twenty minutes.

UTEP continued their streak of shooting 50 percent or better finishing at 51.9 percent from the field, and cashed in on 21 points off Southern Miss. turnovers.

Doc had the perfect game plan, defend like hell, drive the lane, and hopefully knock down shots.

But he didn't fully account for UTEP going with five guards in the final eight minutes or so which helped UTEP switch screens on defense, and go on a 8-of-8 stretch from the field at the 12 minute mark of the second half, until the 5:28 mark of the final frame.

There were plenty of rough stretches for UTEP in this one, at one point, Harris, Artis, and Morris were a combined 4-of-20 from the field, but the Miner guards clamped down in crunch time to stave off another disaster defeat.

A battle for fourth place positioning starts at 4:00 p.m. Saturday as LA Tech comes into the Don.