Julian Washburn and C.J. Cooper got things going early for the Miners, scoring 8 of the first 10 points to start the contest, giving UTEP and early 10-4 advantage. The Miners would continue to press the issue early on, pushing their lead into double digits at 19-8 less than 7 minutes into the game.
UTEP's lead would eventually be stretched out to as many as 14 at 33-19 with just over three minutes to go in the half, but it would be FIU who ended strong, getting the game back to single digits at 34-25 at the intermission.
The Panthers would continue the run out of the break, using an 8-3 spurt to cut even further into the Miners' lead, getting the game to 37-33 just 2:30 into the second half. They'd be unable to get any closer at that point, but things were just starting to get interesting.
After having stretched the lead back to 11 near the 9 minute mark, the Miners would go cold. In fact, UTEP would be unable to find a made field goal until less than one minute to go in the game, giving FIU every opportunity to make a charge.
The Panthers would use a 19-6 run over a 7:18 stretch to turn that 11 point deficit into a 63-62 lead, their first of the ballgame. However, it would be that lone made field goal in the last 9 minutes of the game that would give the Miners the lead back.
Following a C.J. Cooper missed three late in the shot clock, Omega Harris found a huge offensive rebound and put back, giving him his only points of the game, but more importantly giving the Miners the lead with :43 to play.
A few missed free throws in the final seconds would give the Panthers a chance to tie at the buzzer, but a wild shot by Dennis Mavin hit off the backboard, giving the Miners the 67-64 win.
Vince Hunter led the Miners with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Hooper Vint came up huge with a 12 point effort on 5-5 shooting, and Earvin Morris and C.J. Cooper went for 11 and 10, including a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line.
Dennis Mavin led all scorers on the night, putting up 23 on 8-16 shooting. Daviyon Draper finished with a career high 21 points to go with 5 rebounds before fouling out late, and Adrian Diaz had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Panthers held a slight advantage on the boards at 32-31, but the Miners had the advantage in second chance opportunities picking up 12 offensive boards compared to 8 for Florida International.
FIU shot better from the field and the free throw line shooting 46.9% and 78.9%, compared to 42% and 56.3% for the Miners, but it was UTEP who held an advantage from deep, knocking in 7 of their 19 attempts to just 3-10 from FIU.
The win improves the Miners to 16-7 on the year, including 8-3 in C-USA play, while Florida International falls to 11-12 and 4-6 in league play. UTEP will now return home for a three game homestand.
A win is a win, but this one was very nearly a loss. Its beginning to become very hard to ask so much of such a depleted team, especially on the road, but this game should've never been as close as it was.
After scoring 29 points in the first 12 minutes of the game, the Miners mustered 5 the rest of the half, keeping the door cracked for FIU, and allowing them to blow it open in the second half.
This team has got to figure out how to be more consistent, and perhaps more efficient, as at time it seems they get a bit complacent. That, and free throws, have really cost the Miners this year, and it nearly cost them again tonight. That has got to get straightened out.
In any case, again, a win is a win. Away from home, you'll take that all day long. Its now time to come home, regroup and rest up, and take care of business in the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners have now matched their season long win streak of four, which they've done twice, and they've got a real opportunity to take it much further than that. I realize this team has been thinned, but its getting late in this season, and its time to put it all together.
Up next, the Miners will face Charlotte, Thursday night in the Don. Tipoff for that contest in slated for 7:00 p.m. MT.
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