UTEP started strong, and never let up against an under-talented Howard squad to open the West Star Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational with a comfortable 69-56 win.
Three Miners scored in double figures led by Keith Frazier who scored a game high 21 points, and knocked down four 3-pointers to help UTEP extend their win streak to four games.
UTEP shot 40.4 percent from the field, went 7-for-22 from long distance, and shot 16-for-24 from the charity stripe to seal the win.
Howard missed their first six shots from the floor to open the game, and a 3-pointer from Keith Frazier made it 9-2 Miners early on as UTEP was playing tough man-to-man defense and forced long jumpers from the Bison.
UTEP’s strong defense continued during the next stretch as Howard was 2-for-13 from the floor when Omega Harris created a steal that led to an fast break layup for the Senior as UTEP led 16-4 with 11:59 left until halftime.
Frazier also started strong hitting his first three attempts from long distance, the third, part of back-to-back 3’s from Frazier, made it 22-4 UTEP at the 10:30 mark of the first half.
The grad transfer scored 11 points, and grabbed five rebounds in the first nine and a half minutes of the game.
UTEP would slow down offensively, going on a 1-for-10 stretch from the field, while an 13-3 Howard run trimmed the UTEP lead to 33-28 with 1:13 left until the half.
Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field in the opening as UTEP led 37-30 at the break.
Harris scored the Miners first nine points of the second half including a pair of 3’s to extend the Miners lead to 46-32 with 15:35 left in the game.
Tirus Smith had a solid second half, scoring 11 of 17 total points in the final half. Smith was 7-for-7 at one point from the free throw line and finished with eight rebounds.
He also posterized a Howard player with a dirty dunk off a pass from Omega Harris late in the second half.
UTEP led by 20 points with five minutes to go to finish off a solid must-have win.
Harris was also solid finishing with 17 points, and just one turnover in 39 minutes.
UTEP will play North Dakota State tomorrow in the championship game.