EL PASO, Texas - UTEP head coach Tim Floyd couldn't pinpoint exactly what went right in the second half that his team was doing wrong in the first but he admitted this: it all started with defense.
"Sometimes shot making makes you want to guard harder on the other end and we were able to get some stops, which always helps," Floyd said.
UTEP shot 64 percent, held UCF to 30.6 percent from the field and outscored them by 12 in the second half, en route to a 73-58 victory Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners used a variety of ways to expand a three-point halftime lead to 22 at one time, and it started right from the get-go of the second half.
UTEP opened the half on a 19-7 run and scored the first eight points, with 12 of them coming from inside the paint. Floyd said finding open shots helped on the offensive end, as the Miners scored 24 of their 40-second half points in the paint.
"I really don't remember a bad shot in the second half so better ball movement … we got the ball in the lane, took good shots down deep, were able to play in the open court in transition," Floyd said.
The defensive end was the reason Floyd said his team was able to get so many open looks in the first place. That started with Jacques Streeter who held Calvin Newell to just four points in the second half, after he scored 10 in the first.
"As a competitor and as a defensive player, I hate when guys score on me so I took that to heart," Streeter said. "So in the second half I came out better defensively, mentally trying to stop him."
The other player UTEP had a game plan for was pre-season Conference USA player of the year Keith Clanton, who finished with four points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes. He was held to just one field goal, which may have helped with his familiarity with players such as John Bohannon guarding him for the third time in his career.
"We kind of had a feeling of what he was going to do as we do with everyone else," Bohannon said. "It was more of a team effort, our team defense loading up on him and they were all good."
Bohannon, who did not play the last time UTEP was in front of their home crowd last Saturday against Tulsa, came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-4 from the line in 22 minutes.
"With coach Floyd you have to be ready for whatever. You may start one game and you may not. You just have to come in with a mindset that you're ready to start and if you don't, you have to just come in and contribute to the team," Bohannon said.
Konner Tucker added 15 points for the Miners and McKenzie Moore had nine points and tied a game-high with nine rebounds. Tristan Spurlock led UCF with 15 points and Newell had 14.
Three technical were awarded in the game, with one each on UCF's Clanton and Isaiah Sykes and UTEP's only one came with about two minutes left on Julian Washburn.
After missing their first five shots from the field and falling behind 2-0 early, UCF went on an 11-0 run. UTEP never trailed by that much again and chipped into the lead over the last 13:43 of the first half.
The Miners then went on a 14-5 run to tie the game at 16 off a three by Tucker. The Knights took their last lead of the game off a three by Daiquan Walker with 6:08 to go but the Miners answered with a 9-2 run to take a 25-21 lead.
The Miners led 31-28 at the end of the half behind Tucker's 10 points and Bohannon's six points on 3-of-4 shooting. Newell lead all UCF scorers with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
Cedrick Lang started the game and played the first five minutes but did not enter after that. Floyd said that was because Lang's grandfather passed away earlier this week and he traveled back to his hometown on Thursday and Friday, so he did not practice with the team, nor prepare for this game.
Floyd said he still wanted to start him but knew he wasn't going to be part of tonight's game plan.
"I thought it was important to start him, let him know he was still with us … Those minutes were going to come regardless because I love the kid and I thought he deserved to start based on what happened," Floyd said.