POSTED: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 6:15pm
UPDATED: Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 6:39pm
Seniors Robert Nyakundi and Rodney Clinkscales combined to hit seven three-pointers in their final home game for SMU, as the Mustangs beat UTEP, 57-48, on Saturday afternoon at Moody Coliseum.
The Miners closed out the regular season with a 14-16 record, including 7-9 in Conference USA play, while SMU improved to 13-18 overall and 4-12 in league action.
UTEP will be seeded eighth in this week’s Conference USA Tournament at Memphis and will battle ninth seed Houston in the opening round on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. MT. The winner will face top seed Memphis in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. MT.
The Miners never led against SMU on Saturday. The Mustangs rolled to leads of as many as 21 points and hit 10 three pointers, tying a season-high by a UTEP opponent.
“It’s disappointing on our part, across the board,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “I just did not like our energy level. It’s unacceptable.”
UTEP was led by Julian Washburn, who scored a career-high 21 points. The Miners shot 27.3 percent in the first half and 32.6 percent for the game and were horrendous from the free throw line in the second half (3-for-12, 25 percent).
“We’re not making shots,” Floyd said. “We haven’t made shots in about five games, and it’s starting to affect us. We’re making a few more excuses than I would like to have. If we’re not going to score, we have to put a lot of pressure on ourselves on the defensive end.”
Floyd went to a young lineup over the last 12 minutes, with senior Gabe McCulley joined by four freshmen. The unit enjoyed some success, carving a 21-point deficit (51-30) down to nine, but the final margin was the closest UTEP could get since 33-24 at the half.
“I liked the spirit of our young guys down the stretch,” Floyd said. “The defense improved because we changed personnel.”
UTEP got down 12-2 in the first six and a half minutes and faced its largest deficit of the half (25-7) after Clinkscales hit a three pointer with 6:38 to play. The Miners appeared to be in good shape when they closed the half with a 6-0 run to whittle a 15-point deficit down to nine, but SMU opened the second period with an 11-2 run.
Nyakundi and Clinkscales led the Mustangs with 14 and 11 points respectively.
UTEP scored 34 points in the paint in a 70-64 overtime win over SMU on Jan. 14 in El Paso, led by John Bohannon who collected 20 points and eight rebounds. Bohannon was a non-factor on Saturday with four points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, and the Miners were outscored in the paint 14-10.
Now it’s back to the drawing board before heading out to Memphis Monday afternoon.
“We’ve got three days to get ready for a Houston team that is playing its best basketball,” Floyd said. “We have to shore up some things offensively, and defensively we can’t lay down.”