POSTED: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - 10:13pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 9:51am
Randy Culpepper scored 29 points and made all 12 of his free throw attempts as UTEP went 27-for-35 from the line in a 69-59 conquest of Tulsa in the C-USA opener for both teams on Wednesday at the Don Haskins Center.
Culpepper scored 12 of the Miners' first 14 points in the second half and finished with 14 in the final 20 minutes. He moved into fifth place on the all-time Conference USA scoring list with 1,967 points, passing Louisville's Reece Gaines (1,945).
UTEP (13-3, 1-0 C-USA) won its conference opener for the seventh straight season, extending a school record streak. The Miners have won 11 straight home games and 15 consecutive C-USA regular season contests.
Tulsa (7-7, 0-1 C-USA) gave the Miners all they could handle, scoring the first eight points and hanging around until the final five minutes, when UTEP strung together 11 straight points to extend a 54-51 lead to 65-51.
UTEP didn't take its first lead until 3:40 remaining in the first half, when Culpepper converted a three-point play for a 26-25 advantage. The Miners built a 29-25 cushion before Justin Hurtt scored five straight points, powering Tulsa to a 30-29 lead at the break.
UTEP got off to another slow start in the second half, falling behind 37-31 in the first two minutes, before regrouping with a 14-5 spurt to charge ahead 45-42 on a dunk by Julyan Stone with 13:30 to play.
The Miners were still ahead by three (54-51) before Christian Polk jump-started the 11-0 run with a three pointer at the 4:38 mark. Polk scored nine of his 12 points in the final five minutes.
Hurtt led Tulsa with 21 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
After its hot start, Tulsa shot 41.5 percent, including 36.4 percent in the second half. The Golden Hurricane's Scottie Haralson, a UConn transfer, scored seven of his 10 points in the first 10 minutes.
The Golden Hurricane committed 21 turnovers, leading to 27 points for the Miners, who had 12 steals.
UTEP will play back-to-back league road games at UAB Saturday (2 p.m. MT) and Tulane Wednesday (6 p.m.). The UAB game will be nationally televised on CBS College Sports.