Melvin Johnson III scored five of his nine points during a crucial 10-2 second half run, and UTSA held off a late rally by UTEP to win the season opener between the two teams, 73-64 on Friday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The spurt gave the Roadrunners (1-0) a 53-39 lead after UTEP (0-1) had pulled to within six points (43-37) on a three pointer by C.J. Cooper with 14:43 remaining. Afterwards, the Miners fell behind by as many as 18 points before closing the gap to single digits in the final minute.
"You have to credit UTSA," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "They played with a lot of poise, stepped in and made some big shots in the second half. We did a great job defensively and on the boards in the first half. I was pleased with it at halftime knowing we had 13 turnovers, we were 7-for-13 from the foul line and 8-for-25 from the floor missing point blank shots. I felt like if we could just go guard and rebound in the second half, we'd have a legitimate shot to get back in the game, but we didn't do that."
The Miners trailed 33-25 at the half. UTEP, however, couldn't match its defensive intensity in the second half, as UTSA hit 60 percent of its shots in pulling away. The Miners were also outrebounded 15-9 in the second half after dominating the glass (27-11) in the first 20 minutes. The Roadrunners scored 12 second chance points, all after halftime.
UTEP led just once, at 1-0 on a John Bohannon free throw three minutes in. Bohannon, making his season debut after sitting out both exhibitions for disciplinary reasons, led the Miners with 12 points, and Jacques Streeter added 11 points. Alex Vouyoukas and Michael Hale III paced the Roadrunners, a 2011 NCAA Tournament team, with 12 points apiece.
"We just did not have great perimeter play tonight at all, neither shooting it, passing it, dribbling it, or poise getting into an offense. It just wasn't very good," Floyd said. "We've got a long way to go, that's obvious. We've been saying that this was going to be a real challenge this year, but I would expect us to get better."
The Miners finished with 21 turnovers, leading to 23 points for UTSA. UTEP shot 45.1 percent on the night, including 57.7 percent in the second half, but continued to struggle from the charity stripe, making 11-of-21 foul shots.
UTEP will host UC Riverside on Sunday at 3 p.m.