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February 7, 2013

UTEP Shuts Down Rice, 65-53

EL PASO, Texas - UTEP had no trouble earning their 13th win of the season after defeating the last place Rice Owls 65-53 Wednesday at the Don Haskins Center.

C.J. Cooper came off the bench to lead the team with 14 points in 16 minutes played. Head coach Tim Floyd was glad to get contribution from his bench.

"C.J. won two games for us last year… this guy can make shots and he's got a real feel for the game," Floyd said. "We knew that at some point he would help us win a game this year, and he did tonight."

Cooper said he felt he was ready to go whenever he was called on and Wednesday was especially good for him from behind the 3-point line where he finished four of five.

"It was good for me to get some down today, I finally stepped in and hit some," Cooper said. "Coach told me to step in with confidence and shoot them and I did that today. The more opportunities I get, I feel more confident and more comfortable in the offense."

The Miners (13-8, 6-2 C-USA) entered Wednesday in fourth place in Conference USA when they faced the last-place Owls (5-17, 1-7 C-USA).

Aside from Cooper's 14 points of the bench, John Bohannon also scored in double digits, with 11 points in 11 minutes.

The Owls won the rebound battle on both ends of the court, something Floyd said the Miners have to keep improving on. Rice snatched 30 rebounds to UTEP's 27.

UTEP began the second half on a 0-4, not finding a bucket until the 16-minute mark, despite having second chance opportunities on offensive rebounds.

"We did not get an offensive board for a basket, which is really discouraging against a smaller team," Floyd said.

With Miners up by 19, Rice went on an 11-0 run late in the second half to come within eight points of tying the game, but it was too little, too late as UTEP pulled away behind a couple of 3-point shots by Cooper.

"In those type of games, just like when we lost at UAB, when we're up we just have to keep pushing and keep doing the same thing that got us the lead," McKenzie Moore said. "We need to learn how to pull away from teams instead of letting them get back in the game."

Floyd credited Moore with playing a well-rounded game in which he recorded 9 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds.

The Miners close out a series of three consecutive games against Tulsa on Saturday, a team UTEP fell to 45-42 on Jan. 16 during their trip to Oklahoma.

"We'll watch a lot of film tonight and tomorrow (on Tulsa) and see what's working for other people," Floyd said. "We missed a lot of shots that night, they guarded us and they did a great job against SMU as well."

UTEP is currently tied for third place in C-USA play with UCF who defeated second place Southern Miss Wednesday 60-58.

Tulsa dropped to 12-11 after falling 70-63 to UAB Wednesday and will now visit UTEP on Saturday. Floyd said he's confident the Miners will finish the week at home on a winning note.

"It's what we should do (win) and we recognize we'll have opportunities against Southern Miss and against Memphis," Floyd said. "We just have to play those guys. There's still a lot of games left to be played. We know we let one get away from us at UAB, but at the same time, we maybe stole one over East Carolina."


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