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UTEP’s offensive struggles continue in 63-59 loss to UTSA

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Deon Lyle hit five three-pointers, leading UTSA with 18 points as they scrapped out a 63-59 win over UTEP Saturday night in El Paso.

The Roadrunners shot 39.6 from the field in the game, but went 10-for-25 from 3-point land which ended up being a difference. They also crushed UTEP on the boards 48-35, also holding UTEP to an ice cold 36 percent shooting percentage from the floor in the game.

UTEP went 3-for-12 from long distance in the second half, and couldn’t make a free throw all night as they finished 16-for-34 from the free throw line.

A strong UTEP start led to a 21-15 UTEP lead after Tirus Smith hit a three pointer at the 10:36 mark of the first half. Smith returned to the lineup after having knee surgery, making his first look from the floor since his last action on January 11th.

From there UTEP hit an offense wall, and stumbled the rest of the way.

An 11-0 UTSA run aided by a four minute UTEP scoring during a span of which the Miners turned it over three times gave UTSA a 31-28 halftime lead.

Instead of running away with the first half, UTSA shot just 33.3 percent from the field, and turned it over eight times matching UTEP in a bad first half of basketball.

Jake Flaggert hit his first field goal since December 30th, tying the game at 40-40 five minutes into the second half. The lead changed hands six times over the next seven minutes or so, but UTSA closed in crunch time, while UTEP folded from the the charity stripe.

Jhivvan Jackson had an easy breakaway layup after a UTEP turnover giving UTSA a 57-51 lead with under three minutes left to play. Both teams were flat out horrible at the free throw line for most of the game, UTEP self imploded going 10-for-23 from the line in the second half.

UTEP was still down 57-51 when Trey Touchet missed a chance at the three point play with 2:18 to go missing a back end chance of an and-one to cut the lead down to a possession. UTSA stretched their lead to 61-53 with 55 seconds left, but UTEP had one more run left in them to make things interesting.

Trailing 61-57, Isiah Osborne was fouled on a 3-point attempt, but he made 2-of-3 from the line, then on the ensuing UTSA possession Giovanni DeNicalo buried a pair at the line to seal things up.

Omega Harris did not start, and did not score for the first time in 83 games. Keith Frazier did not play tonight, Jon Teicher stated he had missed a practice earlier this week during his radio broadcast.

Matt Willms scored 12 points and added seven rebounds. Paul Thomas and Kobe Magee each scored 11 points.

UTSA had four score in double figures to extend their winning streak to four games and a 7-5 record in the C-USA standings.

UTEP has now lost six straight games for the second time this season, falling for 2-10 overall in C-USA play.

The Miners hit the road next week starting with Charlotte on Thursday, then Old Dominion on Saturday.