POSTED: Friday, March 11, 2011 - 5:44pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 11, 2011 - 8:04pm
Randy Culpepper scored seven of his 26 points during a game-changing 15-2 run in the second half as UTEP topped Tulsa, 66-54, to advance to the championship game of the Buick Conference USA Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (25-8) will take on either East Carolina or Memphis with the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake on Saturday morning. Tip-off is set for 9:30 a.m.
The University Ticket Center will be open until 8 p.m. tonight and re-open at 7 a.m. tomorrow. The ticket center is located at the corner of Mesa Street and Glory Road. The phone number is (915) 747-5234. Tickets are $28, $38 and $53. Fans can also purchase tickets online at ticketmaster.com. Host schools have never sold out a C-USA tournament game.
As of 5 p.m. on Friday, approximately 2,000 tickets were available.
UTEP's 15-2 run transformed a 40-36 deficit into a 51-42 lead. The Miners maintained at least a seven point cushion over the Golden Hurricane (19-13) the rest of the way.
UTEP trailed 28-27 at the half before turning up the defensive pressure over the final 20 minutes. Tulsa was outscored 39-26 after the break and made just 9-of-26 shots (34.6 percent).
Justin Hurtt, C-USA's leading scorer, got off to a quick start, scoring 11 straight points to lift Tulsa to an 18-16 lead midway through the first period. The Miners made the defensive switch from Randy Culpepper to Julyan Stone on Hurtt and he scored only six points the remainder of the game. Hurtt was 3-for-9 from the floor in the second half with two turnovers.
Culpepper, meanwhile, scored 20+ points for the fifth game in a row against Tulsa. In three games versus the Golden Hurricane this season he has tallied 29, 28 and 26 points.
Christian Polk scored 13 points for the Miners, who made 14-of-21 shots (66.7 percent) in the second half.
Another key was UTEP outrebounding Tulsa 18-13 in the second half after being dominated on the boards (21-9) prior to the break.