Jacques Streeter and Konner Tucker scored 11 points each, and UTEP went to the line 38 times in a 70-63 exhibition victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners turned a 23-22 deficit into a 32-23 lead with a 10-0 run late in the first half, then held on for the win after The Storm pulled within two points (51-49) with 11:58 to play.
“This time last year, I believe, we were licking our wounds from a 20-point loss to Eastern New Mexico,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We have a lot of room for growth [this year].”
The Miners didn’t shoot well (32.8 percent, including 25 percent in the second half) and had to rally to equal The Storm on the boards (41-41), but Floyd found plenty of positives in the narrow win.
“Of our big guys, Malcolm Moore was the most aggressive that we had on the floor, which was nice to see,” he said. “He was the guy diving on the floor for loose balls, playing with a lot of energy. I thought that for the most part we weren’t a big turnover team until about a four-minute stretch of the second half. I thought we got back on defense for the most part and didn’t give up easy layups in transition.”
Moore contributed four points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot in an active 16 minutes. Streeter added four assists and three steals to his stat line. Tucker made 3-of-5 three point shots and both of his free throw attempts. John Bohannon chipped in with 10 points and eight boards.
The Miners weathered The Storm, but may have to tackle a demanding early season schedule without Tucker, who ended the game on the bench with an ice pack on his wrist.
“We think it could possibly be broken,” Floyd said. “He’s a guy we were really going to have to rely on at the off-guard position, along with Jalen Ragland. He has been really steady and his experience has helped us. We certainly hope it’s not broken, because he has been our best shooter throughout camp.”
The Miners will hope for the best when Tucker’s x-ray results come in. Typical recovery time for a broken wrist is 6-8 weeks.
All 11 Miners who saw action scored. UTEP finished 26-of-38 at the charity stripe and had major advantages in points off turnovers (16-4) and second chance points (17-10). The Miners also got 37 points from their bench. UTEP held Southeastern Oklahoma State to 40.7 percent shooting, including an 8-for-26 performance from beyond the three-point arc.
UTEP extended an eight-point halftime lead (38-30) to 13 (43-30) in the first two minutes of the second half, but Southeastern Oklahoma State wouldn’t go away. After Antonio Worthy’s layup sliced the deficit to 51-49, the Miners went on an 11-2 run to forge a 62-51 advantage and kept The Storm at bay the rest of the way.
UTEP will tip-off the 2012-13 regular season against Oral Roberts on Friday (Nov. 9) at 7 pm. The Miners will wear retro uniforms on “80’s Night” versus the Golden Eagles, a preseason NCAA Tournament pick coming off a 27-win season.
“It’s a Sutton coached team, so they’ll be inside oriented,” Floyd said of ORU. “We’re going to have to do a better job with our interior defense than we did tonight. Hopefully we’ll have a great turnout for that game.”