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January 20, 2013

UTEP Gets Ugly Win Against SMU

EL PASO, Texas - Head coach Tim Floyd even admitted it wasn't a pretty game. At least his team made it a little attractive for one half.

"Wasn't a very pretty second half, lots of stoppage in play, lots of turnovers, lot of free throws attempted. Not a whole lot of flow to the game in the second half," Floyd said. "We tried to speed them up with some full-court pressure in the second half and did a decent job, putting up 35 points on the board (in the first)."

The UTEP Miners and SMU Mustangs combined for 53 free throws and 41 fouls, but UTEP took an early lead behind seven 3-pointers in the first half and never trailed en route to a 63-54 lead.

UTEP (10-7, 3-1 Conference USA) was led by their frontcourt of Jacques Streeter and Konner Tucker, who scored 30 of the team's points. Streeter hit all five of his threes, all in the first half, too, and scored a UTEP-career-high 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting, overall.

[See photos from the game here.]

"I was just wanting to be aggressive coming out. After the loss from Tulsa I didn't shoot it too well, me or Konner," Streeter said. "I went back in the gym, got up a couple more shots and they just went down for me tonight."

Tucker went 2-of-5 from the perimeter and went 4-of-6 from the line, which snapped his streak of 27-straight free throws. It was the second-longest streak since Brandon Wolfram hit 34 in-a-row back in 2000.

"The key to our victory was our backcourt…those guys made shots for us, they took care of the ball, they allowed us to play a pace that we wanted to play at, which is sometimes underrated in the game," Floyd said.

The Miners came out of the gates hitting two 3-pointers and going 7-of-10 in the first half from the three. They finished the half on a 7-0 run to build a 35-21 lead at the half.

Then, the game went south as Floyd tried to speed up the game and Hall of Famer and SMU head coach Larry Brown tried to slow the pace.

After UTEP built a 17-point lead behind a 14-4 run in the first four minutes of the second half, the game slowed down as the two teams committed a combined 22 fouls in the final 16 minutes. The two also shot 34 free throws during that final frame.

The Miners, who shot 54.5 percent in the first half, made just one field goal in the final 12:43 of the game and shot 35.7 percent in the second.

SMU was held to 36.4 percent in the first half but shot 45.5 percent in the second, hitting their only two 3-pointers in the final 12 minutes, too.

UTEP held onto their double-digit lead throughout the second but saw it fall under 10 when the Mustangs went on a quick 7-0 run, which was capped off on a three by Shawn Williams with 4:22 left.

The Miners were able to hold on the rest of the way, as they hit six of their final 10 free throws on the night.

One player that had to play a larger role was Cedrick Lang, who stepped in for John Bohannon, who played just three minutes. Floyd said he did that because he was "trying to win" and the group he had on the floor was "the best combination" he had to win. Lang still played even when he was in foul trouble and finished with nine points and six rebounds.

Three SMU players finished in double figures led by Williams' 16. Jalen Jones had 15 and Nick Russell had 12. Containing Williams and Russell was a top-priority for Floyd, who was not pleased with the defensive effort on the two players.

"Russell and Williams were two guys that we knew were their key guys. We really didn't do a good job taking them out," Floyd said. "We have to play these guys again and I think they're just going to continue to get better."

UTEP and SMU will square off again in both team's season-finale March 9 in Dallas.

William Vega can be reached at show@minerillustrated.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @WillVega21. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.



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