UTEP held a “comfortable” 56-51 lead with 56 seconds left, then Boise State scored seven straight to end the game as UTEP botched the final 30 seconds trying to close things out to drop a tough 58-56 loss to Boise State in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip Off.
UTEP was up 56-53 with 19 seconds left, but a late turnover off an in bounds play, and troubles getting the ball in play before that gave Boise life, and helped the Broncos finished the game on a 7-0 run in the last 56 seconds.
The loss shadows a really superb effort by UTEP’s Keith Frazier who scored 22 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds and almost single-handedly carried UTEP during a second half surge.
The Miners couldn’t create easy looks, missed a ton of layups, and could not contain Boise State offense in the opening half. But the Miners came out strong defensively in the second half, and Keith Frazier took over for a segment to help UTEP build a second half lead that would eventually be squandered in the final minutes.
It would take Boise State 10 offensive trips to get their first points on the board, although UTEP started 1-for-9 from the field themselves as it was an early 3-2 UTEP lead in a defensive struggle in the first five minutes of the opening half.
UTEP would continue to struggle on offense, turning it over four times during an 8-0 Bronco run as a back-to-back three pointers made it 8-3 Broncos a few minutes later.
Boise extended their lead to 14-5 as Zach Haney got inside for a mid-range bucket, then they led 19-9 after a 3-pointer from Marcus Dickinson with 9:15 left until halftime.
The Broncos got 11 early points off their bench, and used a 12-2 points off turnover advantage to take a 21-11 lead into the under eight minute timeout of the first half, while UTEP’s offense was stuck in the mud shooting 4-for-17 from the field and turning it over seven times at that point.
Keith Frazier would stop a three minute scoring drought with a two hand dunk from the left baseline making it 29-20 Boise. Although Boise would end a nearly four minute scoring drought themselves with a bucket right before the first half buzzer making it 31-22 Broncos at the half.
Frazier led UTEP with nine first half points, but UTEP shot 26.9 percent from the field, and went 0-for-7 from long distance in the opening half.
Matt Willms gave UTEP some early life with a few key defensive stops as Boise State started the second half 0-for-5 from the field. Then Evan Gilyard found Willms under the basket for a layup and UTEP cut into the Boise State lead trailing 34-30 at the 16 minute mark of the second half.
UTEP continued to trail over the next five minutes, but good ball movement spotted up Isiah Osborne with a wide open open look for three at the top the key which cut the deficit to 40-37 Boise State with 11:33 left in the game.
Then not even a minute later, Frazier tied the game at 40 with a 3-pointer, and then he gave UTEP a 43-40 lead with another triple at the 10:20 mark of the second half.
Fraizer would knock down his third triple during that span, then Tirus Smith would snatch and offense rebound and put it back in giving UTEP a 48-41 lead to cap off a 14-1 run.
UTEP trailed 34-26 just two minutes into the half, but went on a 24-7 spurt from there to build their seven point 48-41 lead with just under nine minutes left in the game.
The Miners held the lead with strong defense and smart offense, but Boise nailed a 3-pointer to make it 54-51 Miners with 1:03 left in the game.
Omega Harris went coast-to-coast to make it 56-51 with 56 seconds left, but then a classic UTEP meltdown ensued.
UTEP had trouble in bounding the ball leading 56-53 with 19 seconds left, burning three timeouts, and when they did finally get the ball in play, UTEP turned it over and Chandler Hutchison blew by the UTEP defense for an easy dunk making 56-55 UTEP with 13 seconds left.
Frazier would be fouled on the ensuing inbound with nine seconds left, but would miss the front end of a one-and-one, and Hutchison would convert a 3-point play six seconds later giving Boise a 58-56 lead with just three seconds left.
Frazier had a decent look from just inside the half court line for a final prayer, but the Miners blew a chance at a nice OCC win.
In the end, Boise State rolled off an 11-2 run in the final 2:52 of the game to improve to 3-0 on the season.
The story of the game was the absence of Chandler Hutchinson who has held in check until the final 13 seconds of the game. Boise State’s star and NBA prospect shot 3-for-14 from the field, and had only five points until he scored the last five points of the game to seal the win.
Matt Willms finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, and blocked five shots. UTEP ended the night shooting 34.4 percent from the field, and went 10-for-15 from the free throw line.
UTEP out rebounded Boise State 47-38 but a 14-8 edge in points off turnovers for the Broncos ended up being a major factor with UTEP continually making terrible mental mistakes.
A gutty second half defense effort will be forever overshadowing by terrible game management down the stretch of the game as UTEP will now face South Carolina tomorrow morning at 8:30 am El Paso Time.