Trey Wade scored more than 20 points for the first time in his UTEP career, but six UAB Blazers scored in double figures and the Miners couldn’t keep the Blazers out of the paint in a 85-78 loss Thursday.
UTEP played tremendous defense early on, forcing UAB into long jumpers, but that hard fought effort only lasted about 15 minutes, then UAB put their foot on the gas and cruised the rest of the night.
Kobe Magee gave UTEP an early 12-5 lead with a 3-pointer, then a 7-2 UTEP run pushed the Miner lead to 19-12 capped off by another 3-pointer from Magee with 11:37 left until halftime.
From there, UAB finally got inside the paint, we they lived the rest of the night, and the lead changed hands seven times the rest of the half in typical UTEP-UAB fashion.
UTEP’s freshman trio at guard consisting of Magee, Trey Wade, and Evan Gilyard combined for 24 of UTEP’s 36 first half points. Each hit a pair of 3-pointers but the Miners trailed Blazers 41-36 at half after UAB closed the half on a 12-6 spurt in the final five minutes.
Nate Darling was hard to stop scoring 11 first half points, and scored five straight during a 7-2 UAB second half run as the Blazers extended their lead to 52-38 at the 17:10 mark of the second half after a Darling 3-pointer.
UTEP cut the lead down to five on two separate occasions inside the final 10 minutes, but UTEP could not string together consecutive second half stops parlaying into a 60.7 percent shooting percentage in the second half for UAB.
Evan Gilyard hit four 3-pointers finishing with 14 points off the bench, Magee finished with 11 points knocking down three 3-pointers.
The injury bug continues to nag Matt Willms as he had to leave the game after 16 minutes overshadowing a very strong outing. Willms scored eight points, hauled in four rebounds, and gave UTEP an early defensive spark in the first half.
UTEP finished the game shooting 45.2 percent from the field, but jacked 33 attempts from behind the 3-point arch, making 13 of those looks.
The Blazers shot 55.2 percent from the field in the game, with an eye popping 66.7 scoring percentage in the second half, and killed burned UTEP at the rim with a 48-20 advantage in points in the paint.
UAB also collected 18 second chance points and out rebounded UTEP 35-31 in the end.
UTEP’s road swing continues this Saturday at Middle Tennessee.