FIU fought back from a 20-point deficit Thursday night, but a buzzer beater by UTSA officially eliminated the Golden Panthers from the C-USA Tournament as they try to turn the page Saturday against UTEP.
The Miners got another clutch performance from Dominic Artis Thursday night as they closed out FAU 60-55, but now the Miners have a chance to lock up a top four seed Saturday night with a win, and a loss from Rice.
Artis was key on the boards, and hit a few clutch shots down the stretch keeping this turnaround alive.
“We got a terrific performance out of Dominic Artis tonight." Tim Floyd said after Thursday's win. "He made some big, big shots for us down the stretch. Dominic continues to be the best rebounding guard that I have coached."
Thursday's loss for FIU made it the third time this season they have fell on a game-winning shot inside the final 10 seconds.
The first came back on January 12th when Artis' jumper snapped UTEP's 12-game losing streak, and propelled UTEP into a 10-2 mark in their last 12 games.
Donte McGill was not available the first time around in El Paso, and the 6'3 shooting guard has scored 20-points in back-to-back games and is averaging 19.5 points per game in his last 10 games since he has returned from injury.
McGill and four other seniors will be playing their final home game at FIU along guards Anthony Boswell, Donte McGill and Eric Nottage, and forwards Michael Kessens and Elmo Stephen.
Nottage, who is FIU's point guard, is a very capable guard who dropped 37 points in an upset win against UAB back on January 21st.
Stephen is a legit 3-point shooter, and Michael Kessens has double-double ability and leads the conference in rebounds per game.
Over the last 12 games, UTEP has allowed 62.2 ppg with a defensive field goal percentage of .383 (259-for-676) and a defensive three-point field goal percentage of .268 (79-for-295). The Miners have also shot 48.3 percent (314-for-650) from the floor during that span themselves.
One of the other bright spots from Thursday's win was Kelvin Jones who came off the bench to score 10 points while Paul Thomas battled foul trouble.
Omega Harris also hauled in a career high eight rebounds, those two marks show maturity growth and the recurring ability of being able to play through adversity.
The Miners have held 11 of their last 18 opponents to shooting percentages below 40. During that span their composite defensive field goal percentage is .392 (388-for-990). UTEP continues to lead C-USA in field goal percent defense, and 3-point percentage defense during conference play.
Defense continues to be the calling card, but will tested by a group of capable guards who will be playing for pride on Saturday.
Keys to a UTEP win
- Stay out of foul trouble
- Keep McGill in check
- Make free throws
- Force turnovers that lead to easy buckets
If UTEP's guard tandem of Dominic Artis and Omega Harris continue to defend at a high level, UTEP should be able to control this game from a defensive stand point.
X-factors are production from Jake Flaggert, Trey Touchet, and/or Paul Thomas, and have been staples of the turnaround.
The confidence has to be sky high for UTEP, and that should continue and set up a major showdown with Old Dominion next Thursday.
FIU is simply playing for pride, which is dangerous, but I feel this UTEP team has mentally matured in where taking care of business and being fully in tune with the scouting report and game plan are major advantages,.
UTEP by 7…