EL PASO, Texas - Head coach Tim Floyd had no problem reminding the media about his team's exhibition loss to Eastern New Mexico one year ago; he also had no problem talking about his team's improvements since then, even at the extent of possibly losing a key role player.
Senior guard Konner Tucker exited the game with a potential broken wrist and the UTEP Miners shot 38 free throws, en route to a 70-63 victory against Southeast Oklahoma State Nov. 3 at the Don Haskins Center in their lone exhibition match.
Tucker left the contest with 15:46 remaining after diving for a loose ball and rolling his wrist, according to Floyd. Tucker, the fifth-year senior from Sam Houston State, immediately went to the locker room and returned with about nine minutes left with ice around his right-shooting wrist.
Floyd said the trainers think it's broken, but believes his team will adjust. Sophomore forward Julian Washburn felt the loss could hurt the team, however.
"It's going to affect us a lot because he's a fifth year senior, he has a lot of experience, he's a great shooter, he can space the floor out for you," Washburn said. "It's going to hurt us a lot but I feel like we have some great players that can pick up the slack."
Floyd said Tucker would get an x-ray tonight and is hoping to find out the status by Sunday. Tucker went 3-for-5 from the field, with all his shots coming from the three, with 11 points in 16 minutes.
One player Floyd said might get extended playing time because of the injury is former Parade All-American Twymond Howard, despite an 0-for-4 performance, one point and one steal in 10 minutes.
"It's a big load I think I have to take as a freshman but I'm willing to work and do whatever the team needs me to do," Howard said. "I was comfortable (tonight). It was kind of cool being out there for the first time tonight. It's faster than high school."
Two positives Floyd emphasized were his team's ability to get to the free throw line and their improved rebounding performance. His team went 26-of-38 from the line and matched SOSU's total of 41 rebounds. They had four less defensive rebounds and four more offensive boards.
"It's encouraging we were able to get to the foul line so much. It was the big difference in the game," Floyd said.
Washburn said shooting more free throws were an emphasis all offseason for the team.
"Last year, a lot of guys settled for the jump shot. I feel that if you drive, you get a better chance of getting fouled," Washburn said. "Last year I settled for more shots. This game, I feel like I did get better at driving and getting fouls and if you drive, hopefully the refs will call the fouls."
Floyd used all 11 of his active players, with the exception of senior guard Tyler Tafoya, who is being redshirted this year, according to the UTEP Athletics. He said he was just testing rotations to see which meshed best.
Washburn said that Floyd wasn't even calling an offensive set, saying the team was "freestyling," but still felt the defense could use some work.
"We didn't get back on (defense) so they hit a lot of transition threes, got a lot of easy layups," Washburn said. "I'm happy with the win but we definitely have to get better."
Trailing 23-22, the Miners reeled off a 10-0 run to give them the lead for good with 6:37 left in the first half. After a three and a couple of trips to the line gave them the initial lead, Julian Washburn got the offense-and crowd-going.
Off a deflection, Jacques Streeter saved the ball from going out of bounds, was picked up by Jalen Ragland and finished by Julian with a dunk in transition. Julian was also fouled but missed the free throw to put the Miners up 30-23.
UTEP would score another six straight to extend the lead to as much as 11 with just under three minutes to go and led 38-30 at the half.
The Miners shot 32.8 percent from the field, compared to SOSU's 40.7, but went 6-of-15 from the three, compared to the Storm's 8-of-26.
El Pasoan and Hanks High School graduate Steven Kohli fouled out with 6:01 to go in the game, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and three turnovers on 3-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-5 from the perimeter.