POSTED: Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 10:06pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 11, 2011 - 1:26pm
UTEP placed six players in double figure scoring for the first time this season and blew out to a 23-point first half lead before holding off Marshall, 77-65, in the Buick Conference USA Championship quarterfinals on Thursday at the Don Haskins Center.
The third seed Miners (24-8) advanced to meet either second seed Tulsa or 10th-seed Rice in Friday's semifinals at 2 p.m. MT. UTEP knocked off Marshall (22-11) in El Paso for the second time in nine days.
Following a closely contested opening nine minutes, UTEP went on a 20-2 run to extend an 18-15 lead to 38-17. The Miners took their largest lead of the night of 23 points (44-21) on a three pointer by Randy Culpepper with 2:57 remaining in the period.
Marshall, however, crept back to within seven points in the early stages of the second half. A three-pointer by Johnny Thomas completed an 18-3 spurt that cut a 46-24 deficit to 49-42 with 14:22 to play.
That was as close as the Herd would get, however, as UTEP built its lead back to 15 points (66-51) on a Julyan Stone free throw with 5:19 left on the way to its first conference tournament victory in El Paso since 1990.
Gabriel McCulley scored 14 points for the Miners, who outrebounded Marshall 40-36 after losing the battle of the boards to the Herd, 47-31, on March 2. Stone had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and McCulley added nine boards.
Randy Culpepper (12 points), Christian Polk (11), Jeremy Williams (11) and Claude Britten (10) also scored in double figures for UTEP.
Thomas led Marshall with 13 points.