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UTEP lets one slip away late in 65-61 loss to UTSA

NCAA Basketball: Southern Mississippi at Texas-San Antonio Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Two evenly matched squads in the standings played an evenly matched battle after a quick early start from UTEP. Although UTSA recovered defensively, and won the war slipping away late with a 65-61 win.

UTSA outscored UTEP 6-2 in the final minute of the game which featured 10 lead changes. The Miners led for 34 minutes and were unable to close out the win, dropping a key road game to start a three game road trip and falling to 2-5 overall in C-USA play.

UTEP raced out to a 21-5 lead early on during a 21-2 run after a jumper from Kobe Magee with 12:21 left in the first half polished off a red-hot start from the field.

The Miners started 8-for-12 from the field, while the Runners started 2-for-10, but it was UTSA who closed strong to end out the first half and made things close until the final minute of the contest.

After an Isiah Osborne 3-pointer gave the Miners a 26-14 lead midway through the first half, UTSA outscored UTEP 24-16 for the rest of the half to close the gap.

UTSA hit eight first half 3-pointers, while the Miners knocked down six treys and led 42-38 at the half, holding the lead for all but 59 seconds of the opening half despite the Runners late charge.

Steven Henson made key adjustments, forcing a UTEP scoring drought in the second half which changed the game in UTSA’s favor.

UTEP went on a five and a half minute scoring drought during the second half, and a 7-0 UTSA run during that span trimmed the Miner lead to 49-47 with 11:37 left in the game.

A little more than six minutes later, Osborne would end the more than five minute scoring drought with a layup, regaining the lead at 55-54 with 3:37 left to go.

From there, Giovanni De Nicalo scored six straight for the Runners, including a clutch circus lay up giving UTSA a 60-59 lead with a minute left.

Paul Thomas flipped the lead to 61-60 UTEP on the very next possession, then UTSA answered to regain the lead, followed up by a UTEP turnover, and missed UTEP 3-pointer sealing the win for UTSA.

Trailing 62-61 with 24 seconds left, UTEP called timeout, but Omega Harris would be stripped moments after the inbound, leading to an easy fast break layup with 12 seconds left by Jhivvan Jackson.

On UTEP’s next possession with a chance to tie, Osborne missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with UTSA leading 64-61, as UTEP’s last gasp came up short on the iron.

Osborne continued his strong stretch of play scoring 20 points, hauling in nine boards, and knocked down five 3-pointers. Paul Thomas added 12 points, but no other Miner scored in double figures.

UTEP’s rebounding issues continued as they were out rebounded 43-32, and were beaten 8-0 in second chance points. Keaton Wallace scored 20 points off the bench for UTSA.

The Miners shot an ice cold 20.4 percent from the field in the second half, 5-for-24 overall, and 2-for-15 from long distance in the final half. Eight of UTEP’s 12 turnovers came in the second half as UTEP’s offense sputtered for 19 second half points.

Next up for the Miners is a two game road trip starting with UAB next Thursday.