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December 17, 2013

Miners fall short in dissapointing loss to New Orleans

In signature moments of this early season, there's no doubt UTEP has shown flashes of its potential greatness. Dominant dunks and periods of hot shooting streaks from key players have not been lacking for these Miners -- but consistency has.

Mixed in with plays of brilliance from UTEP that get you standing up with a feeling of excitement have been head scratching efforts that leave fans saying, "They're much better than that!"

Despite the unpredictable nature of the Miners in the infancy of the season, they've still convincingly taken care of business versus the lesser regarded opponents on their schedule.

Monday night's bout with the Privateers of New Orleans was sobering for the 6,344 fans in the Don Haskins Center, though, and a valuable learning experience for UTEP players to not take any game lightly.

The Miners entered a challenging battle from the beginning as the Privateers came out of the tunnel with a much higher level of intensity. As the Miners looked to be in some sort of uninspired auto-pilot mode -- just going through the motions -- New Orleans took a 3-0 lead and impressively sunk their first five three-point attempts.

The Privateers had an answer for every seemingly distance-attaining UTEP surge, exchanging shot-for-shot and resulting in a 36-34 halftime advantage for the Miners.

The second half was no different from the first, as fans observed an inspired New Orleans team go on the Don Haskins Center court to face a Miners lineup with no fire. The first nine minutes of the second half saw the teams go neck-and-neck with the Miners up 50-49 at the 11:05 mark.

The ensuing 55 seconds witnessed UTEP go on a 5-0 run to take a 55-49 lead with 9:55 left in the game. It looked as though the Miners would -- just as they had already done this season -- strongly pull away in the second half after a slow start.

Not this time.

New Orleans went on an 11-0 scoring run of its own to tie the game and then take a 60-55 lead with 7:01 left in the game.

The Miners subsequently scored another five straight for a 60-60 tie with 5:24 left.

The Privateers answered, five more, with a 65-60 lead at the 4:38 mark.

Although UTEP pulled within one with 3:35 remaining, New Orleans just refused to let the Miners tie again or take another lead.

The final 1:48 saw the Miners fall behind 65-69 before a John Bohannon jumper to pull within two with 1:20 remaining.

UTEP then forced New Orleans into a promising shot clock turnover with 42 seconds left -- score at 67-69.

Attempting to take the lead with 26 seconds left, Jalen Ragland misfired a three-ball and UTEP immediately fouled New Orleans. The Privateers only made one of their two free throws, letting the Miners remain in the game.

With 15 seconds left, CJ Cooper missed a necessary three-point attempt to tie the game, but Cedrick Lang came up with the offensive rebound and putback to bring the Miners within one point -- 12 seconds remaining.

New Orleans again made one-of-two free throws, handing UTEP the ball down two -- 8 seconds on the clock.

Jalen Ragland unsuccessfully went for the win, Cedrick Lang again stole the offensive board -- but this time the putback went in and rimmed out with 2 seconds left.

Game over.

The Miners (5-5), hoping to move on without New Orleans (3-4) in their memory, will face Northwestern State in the Don on Thursday at 7:35 PM.

-Three-point percentage leader Justin Crosgile joined leading scorer McKenzie Moore in suspension on UTEP's bench.

-Jalen Ragland led the Miners with 19 points, only scoring 2 in the second half.

-New Orleans shot 50.9% from the field to UTEP's 44.6%.

-Northwestern State visits #12 Baylor on Wednesday night before visiting El Paso on Thursday.



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