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UTEP scraps out fourth straight road win, holds off scrappy FAU 60-55

NCAA Basketball: Texas-El Paso at Rice Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

No matter the situation and even more so on the road, when you give up only 55 points, you always have a chance to put a notch in the win column.

UTEP repeatedly rebounded miss fired FAU 3-pointers, got some clutch baskets down the stretch, and played through their own mistakes to hold off a scrappy FAU squad 60-55.

When you look at two specific numbers without looking at the final score—-FAU shot 3-for-19 from 3-point distance in the game, and 33.3 percent from the field in the second half—-you would think the Miners rolled, but the Owls still gave UTEP issues at times, and kept it close.

Also at times UTEP did all they could to give up a late lead, but this UTEP team just keeps getting it done, somehow, someway.

Both teams started fast, and the lead changed hands eight times in the first six and a half minutes. The lead ended up changing hands 11 times in a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes.

The Miners started 5-for-8 from the field, and a layup from Omega Harris changed the lead for the eight time as UTEP held a 13-12 lead at the 13:21 mark of the first half.

UTEP would then make five of their next seven from the field during a 9-2 run, and a steal by Dominic Artis leading to an open floor layup for the Senior made it 22-16 Miners at the 9:03 mark as UTEP held a 14-6 edge in points in the paint at that point.

A two minute scoring drought allowed FAU to score six straight to tie things up at 22 with under seven minutes left until halftime, and things remained close the rest of the half.

Each team would shoot well over 50 percent from the floor in the first half, and seven of the eight UTEP players in the rotation scored, but UTEP trailed 33-32 at the half.

UTEP forced seven turnovers, and went 4-for-6 from long distance in the first half, but turned it over seven times themselves, and were outscored 10-2 in the paint in the final nine minutes of the first half.

FAU would start the second half 2-for-11 from the field, UTEP struggled at times as well but was able to build a 42-37 lead at the 11:24 mark of the second half during a three minute FAU scoring drought.

Kelvin Jones would be the first Miner to reach double figures, scoring 10 points, but a layup from Trey Touchet put the Miners ahead 46-40 with just under nine minutes left in the game.

Despite a 4-for-18 start from the field in the final half, FAU cut it 46-44 just a few minutes later, but Dominic Artis gave UTEP some breathing room.

Artis scored five straight, including a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 56-49 with 3:51 left, but FAU was not going to go quietly and some Miner miscues kept the Owls alive.

FAU would get back-to-back buckets after Artis’ 3-pointer to make it a one possession game as UTEP held on to a 56-53 lead with time ticking down to under three minutes left.

One of the biggest plays down the stretch came from Artis who hit a leaning floater to make it 58-53 with 1:11 left, taking over like the Senior has during closing time.

Two free throws from Adonis Filer cut it to 58-55, and then the Miners nearly gave it away as Omega Harris missed a wide open dunk, but UTEP retained possession after a review as Trey Touchet chased the loosed ball to help UTEP keep possession.

Jake Flaggert calmly made two free throws after being fouled on the ensuing inbound play and UTEP walked away with their fourth straight road win and now sit at 10-5 in conference play.

Artis ended the night with 12 points, and nine rebounds, playing 37 minutes. Kelvin Jones went 5-for-7 from the field setting his career high at 10 points.

Harris and Matt Willms joined them in double figures as Harris added 12 points, and Willms chipped in 10 points. Jake Flaggert also added eight points, and the Miners shot 48.9 percent from the field, and 5-of-11 from behind the 3-point line in the end.

FAU outscored UTEP 12-2 in fast break points, but free throw shooting did make a huge difference in the end. UTEP edged the Owls 32-30 on the boards, Harris hauled in a career-high eight boards for UTEP.

UTEP went 9-for-12 from the line, Harris went an important 5-for-7, but FAU went 4-for-9 and were 2-for-7 until the late pair of free throws in the final minute.

Scrappy and poised moments like three drawn charges from Jake Flaggert, Kelvin Jones’ solid minutes with Paul Thomas battling foul trouble, and the Miners ability to close out wins has the confidence sky high as UTEP improves to 10-2 in their last 12 games.

UTEP will now take a 45-minute bus ride ahead of Saturday’s road finale at FIU which tips off at 5 p.m. Mountain Time.