UTEP never trailed, and a career game from Omega Harris locked up a top four seed, and first round bye in the C-USA Tournament as UTEP controlled Charlotte in a 74-67 win Saturday afternoon.
Harris posted career highs in points with 27, rebounds with 10, steals with five, and the junior spark plug also went 10-for-12 from the free throw line. The double-double was also the first in his UTEP career.
Four Miners scored in double figures, as UTEP shot 43.9 percent from the field, scoring 32 points in the paint to keep Charlotte at an arms length distance the entire afternoon.
UTEP got off to a clean start offensively, but had no answer for Charlotte guard Andrien White in the first half.
Artis opened his senior day with a triple, then the Miners jumped out to a 14-5 lead after Paul Thomas abused the rim with a right hand slam at the 12:36 mark of the first half.
White would then score eight straight for the 49ers after UTEP’s quick start. Back-to-back 3-pointers from White made it 16-13 UTEP with just under nine minutes left until halftime.
UTEP would answer with a 3-pointer from Trey Touchet, then Matt Willms split a pair of free throws and UTEP led 24-16 with 4:47 left until the half.
White was hard to stop in the first half, scoring 12 points helping Charlotte cut into the lead despite a 29-25 halftime lead for UTEP. He made three of the 49ers five first half 3-pointers, and also collected four rebounds, but was silent in the final half.
Charlotte shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half, missing some open looks, but UTEP also struggled with some open looks going 2-for-11 from behind the 3-point arch in the opening half, and 5-for-21 in the game.
UTEP went into the half probably thinking they should have been up more after going just 3-for-8 at the free throw line, and held a 14-4 edge in points in the paint in the 20 opening minutes.
The Miners kept control of their lead into the second half after three-point play from Omega Harris gave UTEP a 43-35 lead with 13:47 left in the game.
Charlotte continued to shoot the 3-ball well, and answered UTEP’s eight point lead with a 7-0 run cutting the deficit to 43-42.
Harris’ first 3-pointer of the afternoon stopped the run, and pushed UTEP ahead 48-42 as time ticked to under 11 minutes left in the game. Harris scored 22 points of his points in the second half, and eight points in the final two minutes of the game.
After Kelvin Jones slammed home an offensive rebound off the rim, then a pair of free throws from Omega Harris, Paul Thomas would then knock down a deep two point jumper giving UTEP their first double digit lead at 54-43 with 9:38 left in the game.
Charlotte would make things interesting though a few minutes later as they kept chipping away with the 3-ball.
Bratxon Obgueze would knockdown a 3-pointer cutting UTEP’s lead to 63-60 with 3:31 left in the game, but the Miners turned up the defense and closed things out from there.
Harris would go top self to Matt WIllms for an alley-oop dunk, then Trey Touchet would come up with a steal leading to a fast break layup for Harris, then Harris came up with a steal and another layup and UTEP led 69-60 after 6-0 spurt with just 1:36 left to play.
Thomas was solid recording a double-double with 15 points, and 11 rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. Willms added 11 points, and Artis scored 10 points.
Artis also dished out eight assists, and grabbed six rebounds, and shut down Charlotte’s Jon Davis who only scored seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.
UTEP forced 10 turnovers and held the 49ers to a 37.9 shooting percentage from the floor. The only clean looks Charlotte was getting was from long distance as they finished 8-for-19 from 3-point land.
Free throw shooting was a factor in this one. At one point Charlotte was 6-for-15 from the line, and finished 15-for-25. UTEP was poised and went 19-for-30 from the line with the only struggles coming from UTEP’s big men.
UTEP wraps up the regular season with a 12-6 conference record, and is now 14-16 overall competing a true roller coaster season with the conference tournament up next.