It was the true definition of a tale of two halves, but once again UTEP was stuck in neutral offensively when it mattered the most.
UTEP physically hung in with LA Tech for the first 20 minutes, playing great defense, and getting an offensive boost from Omega Harris.
But UTEP ran out of gas after Matt Willms went down with an injury early in the second half, and LA Tech flexed their muscle during a deflating second half spurt as UTEP dropped their 11th straight game in a 64-44 loss to LA Tech Thursday night.
Erik McCree scored 11 of LA Tech’s first 20 points, as his 3-pointer put LA Tech ahead 20-11 at the 10:48 mark of the opening half, and things looked very bleak early on.
UTEP would use some active defense, and Omega Harris got to scoring keeping the first half close after falling into an early hole.
Harris would score 10 points during a 12-4 UTEP run, but accounted for all 12 points as he found Paul Thomas wide open for a layup underneath the basket at the 3:19 mark of the first half with UTEP cutting the lead to 26-25 after Thomas’ layup.
UTEP wouldn’t score the rest of the half, although LA Tech also hit an offensive wall finishing the half 1-for-7 from the floor, but took a 28-25 edge into the halftime break.
The Miners gritty effort led by Harris continued into the opening stages of the second half. But then all of a sudden, Willms went down with a foot injury, UTEP went cold, and inept on offense, and LA Tech dialed up some long balls to stretch the lead.
A step-back 3-pointer off a screen by Omega Harris trimmed the deficit to 33-32 at the 16:21 mark of the second half, but the Miners wouldn’t score for the next 7:17 as LA Tech took full control.
LA Tech would knockdown three 3-pointers during a 15-0 run that featured an 0-for-8 stretch from the floor by UTEP to go along with four very bad UTEP turnovers during the stretch as LA Tech led 51-34 with 9:18 left in the game.
The Bulldogs largest lead was the final count, as LA Tech went 6-for-15 from long distance in the final half.
McCree finished with 19 points, Jacobi Boykins was the other Bulldog to reach double figures adding 14 points to help LA Tech improve to 10-5 overall, and 2-0 in conference play.
Harris ended the night with a game-high 23 points, but it would only be Paul Thomas joining Harris in double figures with Thomas chipping in 12 points.
The Miners shot 25 percent from the field in the final half, and shot 34 percent overall. Dominic Artis had a rough shooting night going 2-for-9 from the field scoring just six points, and dishing out just two assists.
Harris accounted for UTEP’s two 3-pointers in the game as the Miners went 2-for-10 from long distance, and won the rebounding battle 37-35.
Lengthy scoring droughts have been a major issue for the Miners among other things. Especially when they are on the ropes, and need a bucket to stay alive on the scoreboard.
The inability to manufacture buckets, stopping teams from going on offensive hot streaks, and lack of depth adds to the multitude of issues this team is currently battling through.
Phil Johnson confirmed Willms suffered a foot injury, but the extend and status are unknown.
Next up is the finale of this three game C-USA opening slate with Southern Miss coming up Saturday at 3 p.m. Mountain Time.