A few days removed from a devastating loss on the road, the question would be how would UTEP respond in a win-or-go home type scenario to end the regular season, again on the road.
Throw out the stats, it came down to making plays down the stretch and it was Evan Gilyard who answered the call making big play after big play in the second half to ensure UTEP a spot in the C-USA Tournament.
The win officially locks UTEP into the 12th seed in the C-USA Tournament with the first round game coming up next Wednesday evening in Frisco.
Omega Harris was equally as clutch tonight as the senior scored 14 points in the first half, hitting a 3-pointer early on to give UTEP a 16-12 lead, but a six minute scoring drought would erase that early UTEP advantage.
UTEP would go nearly six minutes without a bucket during a 12-0 North Texas run to give them a 34-26 lead with six minutes left until halftime.
Harris stopped the run with another 3-pointer starting a 12-5 UTEP run to end the half as UTEP trailed 29-28 at the halftime break. An 11-2 second chance points advantage helped North Texas hold the first half lead despite not making a field goal in the final six minutes of the opening half.
You can burn the stat sheet in the second half as the game became a back-and-forth battle that came down to Gilyard breaking down North Texas’ defense to lift UTEP to a win.
The game was tied 16 times, and the lead changed hands 14 times as both team traded blows in the final 10 minutes.
UTEP’s biggest blow was a Gilyard three-point play via a layup and foul gave UTEP a 66-63 lead with 1:19 left in the game.
North Texas’ game plan of drive and get to the line worked for the most part of the night as they scored their next three points from the line to tie the game at 66 with 15 seconds left.
After a missed North Texas free throw with 15 ticks left, UTEP ran a pick and roll with Gilyard who lobbed one up to Matt Willms for the slam with three seconds left to seal the deal after a long distance prayer went unanswered from North Texas on the ensuing inbound.
Gilyard scored 10 of UTEP’s final 14 points, finishing the evening with 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists on 6-for-11 shooting in 31 minutes.
Harris ended the night with another strong outing leading all scorers with 18 points, and seven rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting from the floor. Isiah Osborne knocked down three clutch 3-pointers in the game scoring 17 points and adding seven boards to his line.
Willms scored seven points and hauled in six rebounds, and blocked two shots in 27 minutes.
UTEP shot 51 percent from the floor in the game, and shot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half going blow-for-blow with North Texas who went 16-for-23 from the free throw line.
North Texas ended the game with a 16-5 edge in second chance points, and 36-33 edge on the boards, but it came down to making plays in crunch time, something Gilyard has shown he is capable of as of late.
UTEP will play UTSA at 5 pm El Paso Time to open the C-USA Tournament on Wednesday.