UTEP puts away FIU to end 3-game skid, 72-68
Exactly one year and one day ago, the Miners were riding a 12-game losing streak with a 1-13 record versus Division I opponents as they welcomed Florida International to the Haskins Center.
Dominic Artis hit a buzzer-beater in double overtime that game to end UTEP’s skid, and the Miners went on to win 12 of their next 15 games before falling to Middle Tennessee in the C-USA Tournament semifinals.
This time, Matt Willms had a buzzer-beating tip-in before halftime, and UTEP held on to beat FIU 72-68 in front of 6,074 -- ending the Miners' three-game losing streak.
Isiah Osborne led four double-digit scorers with 21 (seven rebounds), Evan Gilyard followed with 14 points, while Paul Thomas (six rebounds) and Omega Harris both scored 10. Trey Wade (nine points, four blocks) and Matt Willms (eight points) led the Miners in rebounding with eight boards each.
UTEP finished 53.8 percent from two (21-of-39) to make up for a 16.7-percent performance from three (3-of-18), while the Miners were 70 percent from the foul line (21-of-30).
FIU was a similarly-off 19 percent from three (4-of-21), shot 53.8 percent from two (21-of-39), and was 46.7 percent from the free-throw line.
Michael Douglas (10 rebounds) and Hassan Hussein (nine rebounds) both had 19 points for FIU, while Brian Beard Jr. (six assists) put up 13 points.
Though the game had four lead changes, UTEP led for 37:50 as the Miners were able to quickly respond to Panther efforts to take control.
The first 4:48 saw UTEP jump out to a 13-2 lead as Paul Thomas and Omega Harris started a combined 6-of-6 from the field, but both players picked up two fouls that forced them to sit out the rest of the half.
FIU responded to the early 11-point deficit by going on a 10-2 run through the next 3:07 -- putting the Panthers within three (15-12) as the clock read 9:05 -- but the Miners allowed just six more points before halftime while doubling their total to 30.
The Panthers came out of the locker rooms aggressive as they cut UTEP’s 12-point lead (30-18) in half through the first 2:43, giving the Miners a 32-26 advantage.
After FIU got to within five with 16:26 on the clock (34-29), UTEP spent the next 2:49 outplaying the Panthers 11-4 and retaking its game-high lead of 12.
The Panthers answered the Miners’ second 12-point advantage by going on a 13-0 charge through the ensuing 3:08 -- giving them an advantage for the first time (46-45).
Three straight baskets then created three lead changes, and the teams played to a 53-all tie as the clock read 6:00.
UTEP continued on a 10-0 run through the next 3:30 -- putting the Miners up 63-53 with 2:30 to play -- and Evan Gilyard helped seal the win by going 9-of-10 from the foul line.
FIU led for just 44 seconds, while the score was tied for 1:25.