POSTED: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 5:35pm
UPDATED: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 11:40pm
UTEP outscored Clemson 23-8 in the final 13 minutes, holding the Tigers to one field goal during that span, on its way to a 61-48 upset of the Tigers in the opening round of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Thursday.
The Miners (5-5) scored their first win over an ACC opponent since knocking off Maryland, 69-51, on Dec. 30, 1988 at the Don Haskins Center. UTEP moved to 10-5 all-time versus ACC schools.
It was a heck of an effort from a UTEP team that lost second-leading scorer Julian Washburn to a shoulder injury midway through the first half, and was without leading scorer Gabriel McCulley for long stretches in the second half. McCulley had three fouls at halftime and played only six minutes in the second period.
Minus two players who combined to average over 24 points per game coming in, the Miners received major contributions from Michael Perez and C.J. Cooper in the second half. Perez scored 16 of his career-high 25 points in the final 20 minutes, and Cooper scored all of his career-best 11 points after the break.
“Our thin team has gotten thinner,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “It looks like we’ve lost Hooper Vint for the year. They’re saying that we’ll probably do surgery on his back. Malcolm Moore will have ACL surgery when we get back on the 2nd [of January], and now Julian Washburn is out with an AC sprain in his shoulder. We don’t know how long that’s going to be.”
UTEP led for most of the first half until Clemson (6-5) rallied to even the score at 24 at the half. The Tigers capped an 11-0 run with a Milton Jennings jumper to take their largest lead of the game, 29-24, with 18:52 to play. Jacques Streeter (seven points/seven assists) answered with a three pointer, and Cooper’s first triple of the game pulled the Miners to within 31-30 with 17 minutes left.
The game was nip-and-tuck until Perez’s three-point play with 12:49 to go put the Miners ahead 41-40, and started a 13-2 run that ended with UTEP up 51-42 and 6:57 on the clock.
Clemson, which had zero players in double figure scoring, couldn’t get closer than eight points the rest of the way. The Tigers’ 48 points were a tournament record low.