EL PASO, Texas - Head coach Tim Floyd was open to talking about his recent meeting with USC the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. But it wasn't that topic that was on his mind after another close loss to a top-25 opponent.
It was free throws, missed opportunities and free throws, again.
The UTEP Miners missed four key free throws down the stretch and fell to the No. 25 Memphis Tigers 56-54 Tuesday night at the Don Haskins Center.
"We had our opportunities. We all know what those opportunities were without singling out players," Floyd said. "We had some chances at the free throw line late that we couldn't convert."
It started with Jacques Streeter, who had the chance to cut a 56-53 deficit to one on his senior night. The second-year point guard went to the line after being fouled by Tarik Black with 52 seconds left and missed both free throws.
But it didn't stop there as the Miners still had a chance to tie after Chris Crawford's shot was blocked and Floyd set up a play with 11 seconds left.
Floyd went with Streeter, Julian Washburn and C.J. Cooper in his back court, instead of their leading three-point shooterKonner Tucker, which he had an explanation for that.
"C.J. played well, Konner was 1-for-6 (from three)," Floyd said.
Cooper took the inbounds and got Black to guard him off a switch but with six seconds remaining, he decided to fire from about eight feet away from the perimeter.
His shot missed but Black was called for a foul, sending Cooper to the line to shoot three. Cooper missed the first, made the second and intentionally missed the third but Black corralled the rebound to seal the game.
Neither team had the upper hand for an extended period after a 22-22 halftime score. There were 10 lead changes and nine ties in the second half alone.
The Tigers held the largest lead of the game, a seven-point advantage with 12:31 remaining, when they went on an 8-0 run. But the Miners responded with a 10-1 run that gave them a 42-40 lead.
"The ball was moving and everyone was being aggressive but on the defensive end, we were getting stops," Streeter said.
UTEP took their largest lead of the second half when Cooper hit a three to put them up 47-44 at the 7:26 mark but that's when Memphis went on a 12-4 run, that was sparked by a three by Adonis Thomas.
"Thomas's three was a big three he knocked down. He was 0-for-2 up until that point. A critical three," Floyd said.
Thomas finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, Crawford had 15 points and Black finished with nine points and six boards. Crawford and Black scored all 24 points off the Tiger bench as the Memphis reserves outscored UTEP's 24-12.
"It's a great luxury they have to bring Chris Crawford and Tarik Black off the bench; great, great players," Floyd said.
Washburn had a game-high 19 points and Cedrick Lang was the only other Miner to score in double-figures with 10. Lang also had a team-high seven rebounds.
"Getting the ball where I was more comfortable (helped me). Coach made plays where I was coming off screens and had open looks…low in the post and I just got hyped and from there, I thought I could make anything," Washburn said.
The Tigers held a 9-0 advantage on second-chance opportunities, as they outrebounded UTEP 12-3 on the offensive glass.
"They crushed us on the glass, we didn't have enough second-chance opportunities," Floyd said.
Memphis shot 52 percent in the second, as compared to 33.3 in the first, and the Miners shot 45.5 percent in the second, 39.1 in the first, and were forced to shoot late in the shot clock nearly every time down.
"When two teams can guard, people sometimes misconstrue that for holding the ball. We weren't trying to slow down the ball, we were in conversion all night long," Floyd said. "The problem was not getting the stops in the second half."
Floyd confirmed meeting with USC, as UTEP athletic director Bob Stull did earlier Tuesday, and said he was not offered a job with them, "nor was he looking for one."
He didn't take any other questions but said he didn't feel comfortable with the way he left USC.
"When they called, I thought we owed it to our former players, our former coaches and our current coaches and guys that want to be on this team that want to coach one day to go speak with them because they did their homework and they weren't going to hire anyone that was broke any NCAA rules," Floyd said.