POSTED: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 11:17pm
UPDATED: Monday, December 19, 2011 - 11:45pm
Cedrick Lang scored a career-high 12 points as UTEP secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a 69-54 conquest of McNeese State on Monday night at the Don Haskins Center.
Winners of three of their last four games, the Miners climbed to 4-5 overall heading into the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu. UTEP will take on Clemson (6-4) in opening round action on Thursday. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU beginning at 12:30 p.m. MT (9:30 a.m. HT). Each of UTEP's first two games in the tourney will be carried on ESPNU, with the third on an ESPN network to be determined.
UTEP will face either Kansas State or Southern Illinois on Friday.
"We weren't as snappy on the offensive end as we were against Southern [on Saturday], and knew that we couldn't rely on the 12-for-23 that we got from the three-point line the other night," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "We played a team that was pretty disciplined. They had two really good players that we were able to hold below their averages in [Jeremie] Mitchell and [Patrick] Richard. Richard got a couple [of baskets] late in the ball game, but for the most part we were able to nullify what they were doing. Cedrick Lang got a couple of big offensive rebound baskets for us at the start of the half after they had closed it to four points, which gave us a little bit of a cushion."
The Miners led wire-to-wire for the first time this season against McNeese State (4-6) on Monday. UTEP scored the game's first three points, built a double-digit lead in the final minute of the first half, then put the Cowboys away with a 14-3 run early in the second half, expanding a 38-30 lead to 52-33. Freshmen Lang, Julian Washburn and D'Von Campbell combined to score nine points during the spurt.
UTEP shot 50 percent from the field for the third time in four games, went 20-for-25 from the line and committed just three of its 13 turnovers in the second half.
Gabriel McCulley scored 12 points and John Bohannon added 10 for the Miners. McCulley has scored in double figures in four straight contests, a career-long streak.
Patrick Richard led McNeese State with 12 points. The Cowboys shot 34.6 percent in the first half, finished at 41.5 percent and were 6-for-15 from the charity stripe.