Terry Winn poured in 21 points and 11 rebounds, but he and Earvin Morris had early exits as the Miners came up just a bit short against the Marshall Thundering Herd in the C-USA quarters.
It was fast and furious from the jump with both teams scoring at a high pace in the early going. The game was tied 13 times, and the lead changed hands 16 times, living up to the fast paced potential we all thought it would be.
The Miners would be the first to create some separation, opening up a six point lead at 14-8 on a pair of Dominic Artis free throws exactly five minutes in.
The lead wouldn't last long though, as Marshall would use a 10-4 spurt to tie the game at 18 on a Terrance Thompson made three less than three minutes later.
A Hooper Vint dunk a minute later would push the lead back to four for the Miners, but Marshall would continue to rely on the three ball, knocking one down on the ensuing possession, their fifth in the early going, to crawl back within one.
UTEP would continue to hold Marshall at bay, still up four with about 7:30 left in the first, before a quick 5-0 Herd run would give them first lead in nearly twelve minutes.
The teams would go back and forth but the Miners would use an 11-5 run via a string of stops over the last 6:20 of the half to take a 42-39 lead into the locker rooms, despite a scoreless final three minutes.
The Miners would score the first four points of the second half, pushing their lead out to seven at 46-39, but again Marshall would come storming back as a pair of made threes would quickly get it back to a one point ball game.
A 9-3 spurt by the Miners would once again give them a seven point advantage, but things would get tight from there. Five straight by Marshall would tie the game at 55, and moments later they would take back the lead at 58-57 with still 13:28 to play.
Over the next seven minutes, neither team would own more than a three point lead, but Earvin Morris would pick up his fifth personal and be disqualified on what seemed to be a fairly quick whistle on a technical, and Marshall would use that to its advantage.
Three free throws on the possession would open their lead to five at 77-72, but the game was far from over. A 6-1 run by the Miners would pull them even with the Herd at 78 all, and two minutes later a pair of Omega Harris free throws would put them up two at 83-81 with just 1:35 to play.
The Miners would hold on to that two point advantage into the final 40 seconds, but a pair C.J. Burks free throws would tie the game, and following an empty possession by the Miners, a strong move past Hooper Vint by Ryan Taylor gave the Herd the lead, and the 87-85 win.
Dominic Artis had a shot for a tie with three seconds left, but appeared to have the ball stripped by Ryan Kelly as he pulled up from right above the 3-point line from top the key while time ran out.
Artis had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, Lee Moore had 14 points, Omega Harris had 12 and Earvin Morris finished with 11 in very limited action.
Marshall was led by Ryan Taylor who finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. He also came up with a huge block of an Omega Harris layup with 18 seconds left which led to his game sealing bucket.
Austin Loop finished with 18 points, James Kelly had 13 points and 11 boards and Jon Elmore chipped in with 12.
As a team, UTEP shot 47.1% from the field, while Marshall was held to 43.5%. The Miners also shot 40% from three, to just 33.3% for the Herd, however the Miners were 4-10, while Marshall finished 13-39.
Marshall finished the game with a 44-38 rebounding advantage, including 18-14 on the offensive end, but also had 15 turnovers to just 12 for the Miners.
In the end, just too many points were left out on the floor as the Miners missed countless shots at the rim, and let quite a few 50/50 balls slip away in the final minutes
The loss ends the Miners' season 19-14, Marshall moves on to face Middle Tennessee in the semis tomorrow..
Their hopes of any NIT berth are slim, and Tim Floyd stated after the game that he has turned down invitations to the CBI, CIT and the new tournament in Las Vegas.
Until next year.....