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Stellar guard play lifts UTEP over Washington State 76-69

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Terrific performances from Omega Harris and Keith Frazier led UTEP in a very nice 76-69 win over Washington State Saturday night.

Keith Frazier led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, while Harris finished with 18 points, and went a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.

UTEP’s guards combined for 11 assists as UTEP shot 42.1 percent from the field, and made seven of nine layup tries in the game. UTEP scored on 51.4 percent of their possessions, and rebounded well in the second half after being crushed on the boards in the opening half.

The first half pace was close and competitive all the way despite an early 12-2 WSU run that made it 14-7 Cougars at the 15:49 mark of the opening half.

UTEP was able to close the gap as Keith Frazier hit back-to-back 3’s, followed up by an Omega Harris 3-pointer all apart of an 18-11 UTEP spurt that would be capped off by a Paul Thomas 3-point play to tie the game at 25 with 7:56 left until halftime.

WSU would roll off an 11-4 run from there to take a 36-29 lead after a dunk from Drick Bernstine with 4:40 left until halftime. Then Harris carried UTEP the rest of the half making it close at the break.

Harris scored the last eight points of the half for the Miners, finishing the half with 11 points as UTEP trailed 42-39 at the half.

UTEP shot 43.8 percent from the field in the opening half, but were crushed on the glass 23-10 in the first half, and gave up 11 second chance points.

Wazzu drew first blood in the opening half with a 3-pointer, but Harris again charged a UTEP run. This time UTEP got on a 7-0 run as Harris assisted on a Paul Thomas jumper to cap the run and give UTEP a 49-45 lead just three minutes into the second half.

Things remained nip and tuck as UTEP shot right at 50 percent from the floor in the first 10 minutes of the half, and led 57-55 after a Matt Willms tip in heading into the final ten minutes of the game.

WSU would not make a field goal for more than five minutes during that same stretch, as Frazier but back an offensive board for a score, then Frazier nailed his fifth 3-pointer of the night giving UTEP a 64-58 lead with 6:34 left in the game.

Malachi Flynn would make is first shot of the game at the 4:55 mark, a 3-pointer, which cut the UTEP lead to 64-62, then Kwinton Hinson answered a pair of Evan Gilyard free throws with a corner 3-pointer to cut the UTEP lead to 66-65 with three minutes left in the game.

UTEP led 70-65 after a backdoor slam from Keith Frazier, WSU made it close and one last chance for a tie after WSU came away with three straight defensive stops.

Trailing 70-67 with 39 seconds left, Robert Franks missed a 3-pointer in attempt tie things up for WSU, and Harris made four free throws in a row to seal the deal.

Matt Willms returned to the lineup scoring eight points, and hauling in seven important in 27 minutes in his return from injury.

Paul Thomas added 11 points and five rebounds as UTEP collectively out rebounded the Cougars in the second half despite a 35-31 WSU edge in the end.

UTEP went 7-for-28 from long distance in the game, but went an impressive 21-for-22 from the free throw line to seal up a second straight win.

Washington State made 12 3-pointers, but turned it over 12 times as UTEP held a 9-2 points off turnovers edge in the game.

The home stand continues on December 19th as UTEP host Incarnate Word.