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UTEP Basketball: Offense explodes in 90-76 road win at FIU

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

Every game during this now 13-game stretch, a strong aspect has been a game changing strength, and today it was offense, particularly the extra pass leading to the better look.

UTEP had five score in double figures, shot 67.3 percent from the floor, made 17-layups, and put themselves in a perfect spot to secure a top four seed in the C-USA Tournament as they thoroughly dominated FIU 90-76 Saturday night.

The game plan early was to get it inside and Matt Willms and Paul Thomas responded for the entire first half and the entire game.

They both combined to score 16 of UTEP first 18 points and after a pair of free throws from Willms gave UTEP an early 18-13 lead at the 11:24 mark of the first half.

Dominic Arits hit a pair of free throws to make it 23-16 during a two minute FIU scoring drought, but the Golden Panthers got going from long distance to close the gap.

FIU started 5-for-10 from behind the three-point arch with a 3-ball from Michael Douglas giving FIU their second lead of the game at 23-22 with just under nine minutes left until halftime.

UTEP continued their assault on the paint with an early 22-8 scoring advantage in points in the paint which built a double digit lead.

Paul Thomas pulled in an offensive rebound, and put it back home for points capping off a 9-2 UTEP run and pushed UTEP ahead 36-26 with 2:49 left until halftime.

UTEP led 41-30 at the half after Willms scored 15, Thomas added 11, and the Miners shot 63 percent from the field and made 10 of their 12 layups to polish off a solid half.

Willms and Thomas would score the first four points of the second half via layups, then Arits hit a 3-pointer and UTEP had a 48-32 lead just a minute and a half into the second half.

UTEP would go cold from there as they went on a two minute scoring drought, and FIU answered with a 9-0 run to trim the lead to 48-41 Miners at the under 16 media timeout of the second half.

Harris would be the next Miner to reach double figures scoring five straight with a three-pointer giving UTEP a double digit lead again with 14:39 left and UTEP leading 53-43.

A three-pointer from Trey Touchet, a fast break dunk by Artis, and a layup from Paul Thomas during a 7-1 spurt made it 65-52 UTEP with 8:29 left in the game.

The Miners led 74-58 with 3:54 to go and that point held a 44-26 edge in points in the paint and were well on their way to a four game road swing sweep.

Harris hit UTEP’s seven 3-pointer of the night a minute later and UTEP was in complete control leading 80-63 with 2:29 left in the game.

UTEP went 7-for-11 from downtown, and had assists on 24 of their 35 made field goals putting on an offensive show in front of about 100 fans at FIU Arena.

Willms finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, and three assists in 32 minutes going 10-for-13 from the floor. Artis scored 21 points, 17 coming in the second half, and added seven assists, and four rebounds.

Omega Harris went 8-for-12 from the floor, and 3-for-4 from long distance scoring 19 points and also adding four assists, and four rebounds to his impressive stat line.

Paul Thomas scored 15 points, and also filled the stat sheet six rebounds and five assists. Trey Touchet scored 12 points, and went a perfect 3-for-3 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.

UTEP also slammed home four dunks, and went 17-for-25 from the field in the second half. They also went 15-for-17 from the free throw line, and owned a 30-18 rebounding edge in the game.

So many players stepped up and filled the stat sheet which impressively gives UTEP an 11-5 mark in the C-USA standings with a battle for third place looming next Thursday.

The win tonight makes it five straight road wins, and a 4-0 road sweep on the Miners final road trip of the season.

UTEP will square off with Old Dominion next Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Don, winner grabs sole possession of third place.