NCAA Tournament runner-up Texas Tech falls to UTEP in exhibition
It was an exhibition; it won't count in the record books; the results aren't guaranteed to be indicative of the season to come.
In the biggest game against the most prestigious team the Haskins Center will host this season, though, UTEP showcased its influx of high-level talent -- coming away with a 70-60 victory over a Texas Tech program that was an overtime away from being the defending national champions.
Besides the Miner excitement in the way the results unfolded, an important takeaway from UTEP's win is the display of how deep this team is with talent -- a contrast from a season ago in which players could only practice but not play in games with the team, watching from the bench.
UTEP is now able to play with an amplified defensive intensity -- an intensity that matched Texas Tech's Saturday night -- without having to worry about fatigue because of a now-deep rotation of players able to take over games by themselves.
Among the new Miners, standout transfers Daryl Edwards and Bryson Williams combined for 43 points, going 17-of-23 from the field. Edwards -- a 3-point threat we haven't seen since the great Randy Culpepper -- was 6-of-8 from the new 3-point line for the majority of his 24 points. Williams proved to be a dominant force in the paint on both defense and offense, putting up 19 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.
Sophomore Jordan Lathon followed with 16 points (8 rebounds), half coming from free throw (8-of-10). Only three other Miners scored: Efe Odigie (5), Erik Vila (4), and Souley Boum (2, 4 assists) combined for 11 points, while Nigel Hawkins went scoreless for the first time as a Miner.
Despite a low offensive output from Vila, Boum, and Odigie -- Vila and Boum introduced their defensive presence, which contributed to Texas Tech's 16-of-51 performance from the field. While Odigie showcased his stingy defense last season as a freshman, Deon Stroud, Anthony Tark, and Tydus Verhoeven didn't have the chance to show what they can do as rivals-rated 4-star recruit Kaden Archie watched from the bench (Arichie will be eligible to play during the spring semester).
After Texas Tech sat Haskins Center fans down 28 seconds in with a pair of free throws, Bryson Williams introduced himself with a dunk through his defender finished off with an and-1 conversion.
Tech scored seven unanswered points through the next 3:34 for a 9-3 lead, then came the introduction of Daryl Edwards with consecutive threes to tie it 9-9 as the clock read 13:00.
The next 13 minutes of the first half saw UTEP's lead at a high of 3 and Texas Tech's lead get to a high of six before going into the half up 30-25.
As the second-half clock read 18:17, Tech's lead reached a game-high of 8 (33-25), but UTEP used the next 3:56 to go on a 10-3 run that put them within 1 (36-35). The Miners were within a point three more times (42-41, 45-44, 46-45) before Jordan Lathon hit a free throw at 9:11 that put the Miners up the rest of play.
Texas Tech then got within 1 (49-48) as the clock read 8:23 and within 2 (55-53) at 4:48 before UTEP used the final five-minus minutes to showcase a 17-5 sprint -- ending the biggest Haskins Center game of the season with a UTEP win.