UTEP’s Dominic Artis had a night to remember Thursday night in UTEP’s double overtime win over FIU.
The senior from the California Bay Area played 47 minutes, scored 18 points, adding nine rebounds, and 10 assists to his line, and also hit a buzzer beater off a tipped pass with less than a second left in the second overtime to snap UTEP’s lengthy losing streak.
It was a game UTEP and Tim Floyd will look back and say it should have never gone into overtime, but for a team with a double digit losing streak, a win is a win.
Omega Harris added 20 points before fouling out in the second overtime, and Paul Thomas added a career high 19 points, and 11 rebounds in the win, making his first seven shots from the floor and played 47 minutes.
It was a nip-and-tuck first half, with FIU owning the largest lead of five inside the final six minutes of the first half.
Paul Thomas scored 10 first half points, but FIU shot 48.1 percent from the floor in the opening half taking a 33-30 lead at halftime.
The lead changed hands 10 times in the opening half as FIU’s bench outscored UTEP’s 18-7 in the first half.
FIU controlled a small four point lead for the first nine minutes of the second half, then UTEP finally took a lead, and appeared to be running away with a win.
UTEP trailed 45-41, but a hook shot from Kevlin Jones, then a corner 3-pointer from Omega Harris put UTEP ahead 46-45 with 11:44 left in the game.
A layup from Dominic Artis stretched UTEP’s lead to 50-45 during a 9-0 run as FIU went more than two more minutes without a bucket.
FIU’s Eric Lockett would get hit with a technical foul during UTEP’s run, swelling UTEP’s run to 18-0 after Paul Thomas hit his seventh shot in a row from the field as UTEP barged out to a 59-45 lead with 7:26 left in the game.
UTEP wasn’t out of the woods just yet as UTEP slowed things down on offense, then FIU got hot from long distance and made it close until the second overtime buzzer rang out.
A three minute UTEP scoring drought helped FIU slowly crept back into the game, as UTEP led 63-58 with just under three minutes left.
Then the Miners were up 65-60 with under two minutes left, and FIU finally made their move. FIU scored on back-to-back possessions just 20 seconds apart to cut it to just one, then Paul Thomas split a pair of free throws giving FIU one last look.
Kimar Williams split through UTEP defenders for a layup, tying the game at 66 with 21 seconds left. The Miners looked for Matt Willms on the next possession down on the block, but it would get thrown away from Harris, sending the game to overtime.
FIU appeared to have an upper-hand in the first overtime after a 3-point dagger from Eric Nottage gave the Golden Panthers a 77-73 with 20 seconds left in the first extra period.
Artis would get inside the paint for a bucket, then Nottage missed two free throws with Artis getting fouled on a fight for the rebound after the second miss.
DA hit both, tying the game at 77, then Nottage air-balled a tough 3-point look forcing another overtime.
In the final minute of the second overtime, it again looked like UTEP was about walk away a loser, but Artis made sure that wouldn’t happen for a 12th straight time.
Down 87-83 after a wide open layup by Nottage with 46 seconds left, Artis hit a huge 3-pointer cutting the lead to 87-86 with 34 seconds left and was just getting started.
On the ensuing in bounds play, Artis forced a turnover, and UTEP had possession with 31 seconds left.
After two misses including a layup by Artis that would be blocked out of bounds, UTEP had one shot left with 1.6 remaining.
Jake Flaggert threw a risky inbound pass intended for Artis that was tipped downwards by Eric Lockett, but the ball fell right into Artis’ hands of a bounce who quickly released to end UTEP’s losing skid.
The Miners shot 49.3 percent in the game, and out rebounded FIU 47-35, they also out scored FIU 40-34 in points in the paint despite giving up 22 points off careless turnovers.
One of the biggest defensive factors during UTEP’s 18-0 run was the heart and hustle from freshman big man Kelvin Jones who ended the night with nine points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.
Trey Touchet also came up huge in sequences adding 11 points, and went 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
As a team UTEP shot 16-for-30 from the free throw line, but cashed on 16 second chance points via 14 offensive rebounds.
The win was much needed in a lot of ways. It snaps UTEP’s losing streak, gives them some confidence heading into Saturday, and it keeps UTEP a game in front of North Texas and FIU for the 12th place spot in Conference USA with lots of games left on the slate still remaining.
UTEP will host FAU Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.