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UTEP Basketball: Returners wear down newcomers 80-70 in preseason scrimmage

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Junior forward Paul Thomas led all scorers with 21 points, as the older guys pounded the paint and outplayed the newbies down the stretch in a highly competitive pre-Costa Rica scrimmage.

The returners pounded the paint with an efficient 50-22 advantage, but the newbies hung around from behind the 3-point line going 11-for-30, and some special performances.

Thomas also dished out six assists, and was 8-for-15 from the field, and hit two 3-pointers. Omega Harris scored 19 points, and added six rebounds to his line, while Kelvin Jones chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes.

Trey Wade put on a scoring show at times for the newbies, scoring 21 points to go along with eight rebounds. Isiah Osbourne added 19 points, and eight rebounds, doing some damage from 3-point land going a perfect 4-for-4.

The returners at one point held a double digit lead midway through the third quarter, but the newcomers were able to scrap back and come within five in the fourth, but the returners were poised dishing out 19 total assists.

Matt Willms added 12 points, and seven rebounds, as the veterans cashed in 16 points off 11 forced turnovers.

Here are some key takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage.

Thomas, Harris expand their offensive gallery, and production

Paul Thomas took five 3-point shots, expanding his range, and appears to be stronger around the rim which is very encouraging.

He was also finding teammates for easy buckets with his six assists, and was playing with a sky high confidence built from his sophomore year.

Harris was actually pretty special, making some clutch buckets and winning plays down the stretch, and attacked the paint with his usual quickness, and craft scoring moves.

We know what both bring, but seeing some dynamic expansion in their offensive attacks makes them tough to guard. They also showed poise and experience down the stretch as the returners controlled the final few minutes thanks to winning basketball from Harris and Thomas.

Trey Wade=The Truth

Wade stole the show in the first quarter, scoring 11 points, and had a strong finish with his 21 points.

He was also active on the boards, and in defensive scrums in the paint which is a huge plus.

He can create his own points, and seemed very conscious of his shot selection even though he did attempt 11 3-pointers. None seemed forced, and his ability to get inside the lane is a weapon the Miners will have.

Wade was also guarding Paul Thomas most of the night, and held his own. He showed not only does he belong at the D-1 level, but it’s not a stretch to say Wade could star at the D-1 level, and maybe even this season.

Tirus Smith can also help

He opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and ended the night 14 points in 34 minutes.

A true stretch four, Smith has some sneaky quick post moves, and can give UTEP some legit depth off the bench this coming season. He looked like a physical forward who was recruited by the SEC.

His conditioning will be an area of work as a freshman, but overall Tirus Smith could develop into a factor depending on the role he carves out.

Kelvin Jones’ basketball IQ is getting better

Jones quietly put up one of the best stat lines from Saturday, going 6-for-9 from the field scoring 15 points, and adding eight rebounds.

Most of his looks came from inside the paint, but he was also gifted a nice 14-foot jumper from close to the free throw which he had no problem hitting off a nice assist from Paul Thomas.

His awareness was also at an improved level, quickly noticing a mismatch with his back to the basket, and Jones muscled his way in for an easy score.

It’s just a scrimmage, but UTEP might have one of the best center depth charts in C-USA if Kelvin continues to grow his game, and basketball IQ.

Freshman guards still feeling their way

They weren’t flashy, they didn’t put up eye popping numbers, but freshman point guards Evan Gilyard and Kobe Magee showed good flashes despite the lack of production.

Magee has a nice feel with the ball in his hands in transition, and so does GIlyard who had a rough night getting into a groove with his scoring.

Overall, it wasn’t pretty on the stat sheet, and they have a lot of work to do, but they do belong and will get a chance to work with the returners in Costa Rica who can help their assists numbers and flare.

Overall thoughts

Guys were out there putting playing hard, and it was actually an enjoyable scrimmage to watch despite just a week of practice. There wasn’t much slop ball going on, and seeing the veterans take the game over down the stretch was encouraging.

The game flow was smooth, this team is clearly athletic and explosive at times, but chemistry will be a thing to watch in Costa Rica.

Tim Floyd was in a playful mood, and the players were really loose and just having fun while playing hard.

This is a really green group, and they have tons of work to do before they are near a polished product, but I came away more impressed than I initially expected, but the season opener in November is still ways away.....