POSTED: Saturday, February 18, 2012 - 5:26pm
UPDATED: Sunday, February 19, 2012 - 8:24pm
Jacques Streeter scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and UTEP took its first lead of the game with 1:19 to play before holding on for a 60-58 victory at Memphis on Saturday afternoon.
The Miners (13-13, 6-6 C-USA) won their first road game of the 2011-12 season on their ninth try, shooting 61 percent in the second half in outscoring the Tigers (19-8, 9-3 C-USA) 41-30 after the break.
It was UTEP’s second straight win at the FedExForum, including a 72-67 triumph during the 2009-10 season that snapped the Tigers’ NCAA-record tying 64-game conference winning streak.
“When you go down late in the game and you’ve lost several close games, you wonder if you’ll have the fortitude to come out on top, fight through, keep making plays and take care of the ball,” said UTEP assistant coach Phil Johnson, who led practices all week while head coach Tim Floyd was away tending to his ailing mother. “We didn’t have a lot of turnovers, and that was really the key.”
The Miners outscored the Tigers 9-3 over the final three and half minutes, erasing a 55-51 deficit in the process. Julian Washburn started a 7-0 run with a jumper at the 3:29 mark, and Michael Perez made two free throws with two minutes to go to tie the game. UTEP took the lead for good on two free throws by Cedrick Lang with 1:19 to go.
Following a turnover by Chris Crawford, Streeter made two foul shots to widen the margin to four points (59-55) with 37 seconds left. Joe Jackson missed a layup on the other end, and Memphis native Gabriel McCulley split two free throws with 24 seconds to play.
The Tigers’ Will Barton buried a three-pointer with 20 seconds left, slicing the lead to two points (60-58), then the Miners turned it over it over on the inbound, giving Memphis a chance to win. But Barton missed a three-pointer with one second left while blanketed by Washburn.
“They took the shot there at the end and you just think, ‘Here we go again,’” Johnson said. “How many times have we been beat at the buzzer.
“We figured it was going to be some kind of isolation play [on the last shot]. We just said to Julian, ‘You’re on your own.’ He was great. He probably jumped out of the play and Barton got a good look at it. Up until the shot, Julian was great. Right there at the point where you want your guy to stay down, he raised up. Fortunately he didn’t foul him. But he did a good job on him.”
Perez tallied 15 points for the Miners, who survived a monster game by Memphis’ Tarik Black. He posted a career-high 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting while adding 10 rebounds.
“We couldn’t control him. He was a problem,” Johnson said. “We were constantly trying to figure out a way to keep the ball out of his hands. He is a physical guy. He’s a man and he just kicked our butts.”
Despite Black’s dominance, UTEP outrebounded Memphis 30-27, with McCulley (12 points) and John Bohannon (nine) both enjoying a big day on the glass.
The Miners outshot Memphis 44.2 percent to 37.5 percent. The Tigers scored three field goals in the last eight minutes. UTEP also turned the ball over 10 times – five times in each half -- while surrendering just 12 points off turnovers to the Tigers.
UTEP couldn’t buy a bucket in the first 20 minutes, shooting 32 percent from the field in falling behind 28-19. But Miners opened the second half with a 9-2 run, cutting a 28-19 deficit to two points (30-28), and hung around before making their move in the final minutes.
“We learned that our guys are getting a lot better,” Johnson said. “To win a close game on the road against a great team gives our guys a lot of confidence down the stretch. Hopefully we’ll turn our season into a real positive.”
UTEP will host C-USA leading Southern Miss on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. in the next-to-last home game of the season.