Shorthanded, and facing a back breaking losing streak during their toughest stretch of the season, UTEP failed to show up and Middle Tennessee flexed their NCAA Tournament muscles Saturday in an ugly 81-50 blowout.
UTEP shot inside the 20-30 percent mark for the most the game, and never gave themselves a chance against the elite program in C-USA.
The loss drops the Miners to 7-14 overall, and 2-7 in C-USA play.
It took UTEP more than three minutes to get on the board after the opening tip, by then MTSU had a quick 7-0 lead that continued to grow.
The Blue Raiders led 15-6, then 20-8 after a 3-pointer from Edward Simpson at the 9:12 mark of the first half. Middle Tennessee smothered UTEP when the Miners weren’t jacking three’s, and UTEP didn’t reach double digit scoring numbers until the 3:16 mark of the first half.
MTSU’s largest lead of the first half came at the 3:40 mark after a basket from Nick King as UTEP was down 28-9, with the Miners lone big Paul Thomas picking up four first half fouls.
UTEP went 3-for-15 from long distance in the first half, and despite finishing the half on a 8-2 run in the final three minutes, UTEP trailed 30-17 at the break.
The rout got worse in the second half, UTEP was shooting 28.9 percent from the field when they trailed 51-29 with 11:11 left in the game. Middle shot an efficient 50.9 percent from the field, and led by as much as 36 points in the final minute.
Evan Gilyard scored 13 points making it four out of the last five games Gilyard has scored in double figures. Trey Wade added 14 points, and nine rebounds.
UTEP shot 45.8 percent from the field in the second half, and 33.3 percent for the ball game. They were also crushed on the glass 42-25 and the 50 total points is a season low.
UTEP returns home next Thursday to face Western Kentucky.