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Cooper's Career High helps defeat Southern Miss by 8

Sports

POSTED: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 11:46pm

UPDATED: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 10:54pm

UTEP outscored Southern Miss 26-10 over the final 12:05 of regulation to wipe out a 16-point deficit, then rode the hot shooting of freshman guard C.J. Cooper to a 76-68, double overtime win over the Golden Eagles on Wednesday at the Don Haskins Center.

The Miners (14-13, 7-6 C-USA) posted their second straight win over a first-place team in Conference USA, while recording their biggest comeback victory since joining the league for the 2005-06 season. The previous biggest deficit overcome by UTEP in a C-USA win was 15 points twice in a 61-58 overtime victory over SMU on Feb. 25, 2009 at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP has its longest winning streak of the season at four games. The Miners have won four straight games by nine points or fewer after losing four in a row by eight points or less from Jan. 21-Feb. 4.

"Unexpected win when you're down 16," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "We did a lot of things well in the last 11 minutes of the game. We limited the turnovers that really hurt us early and made shots. C.J. Cooper came in, made shots and also guarded. Things are happening during this stretch for us. We're rebounding where we weren't rebounding earlier. This is a terrific rebounding team we played against, and we limited them to one shot late. For the most part we're pleased with the 20 free throws they shot, because they excel in that area.

"Julian Washburn did a terrific defensive job on Neil Watson, who has been a special player for their team. He limited him to a low percentage and for the most part kept him off the line. Cedrick Lang took two charges in the final 11 minutes of the game, the big one with a three-point lead where he got his lip split. I thought Jacques Streeter again is playing his best basketball of the year. When you win close games, you've got to look at your guards first."

UTEP joined Murray State (26-1) as the only teams to beat both Memphis and Southern Miss this season. The Golden Eagles (22-6, 9-4 C-USA) have lost consecutive games for the first time this season after falling at Houston, 73-71, on Saturday.

Southern Miss trailed 21-16 with a little over six minutes to play in the first half before surging to a 36-23 lead with a 20-2 run. The Golden Eagles took their largest lead of the game, 46-30, on a three-pointer by Neil Watson with 12:22 remaining.

The Miners used a 19-5 run to pull within two points (51-49) on two free throws by Julian Washburn with 3:52 to play. A three-point play by Darnell Dodson with 3:32 left extended Southern Miss' lead to 54-49, but UTEP outscored the Golden Eagles 7-2 over the final 3:10 to force OT.

After the two teams battled to a 63-63 deadlock in the first overtime, the Miners took command in the second extra session. UTEP ran off the final nine points of the game after Angelo Johnson's jumper put Southern Miss ahead 68-67 with 1:56 to go. A layup by John Bohannon with 1:38 remaining gave UTEP the lead for good at the 1:38 mark.

With the Miners struggling to score in regulation, Cooper, a reserve guard who had totaled 10 points in his previous 10 games, came up big. He tallied 10 points in the second half and six in overtime for a career-high 16. Cooper was 5-for-9 from the field, 2-for-4 from three-point range and 4-for-4 from the line in 25 minutes off the bench.

UTEP also received a near triple-double from backcourt mate Jacques Streeter, who finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Bohannon (14 points), Washburn (14), and Gabriel McCulley (12) also scored in double figures for the Miners, who shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded Southern Miss 39-35.

Dodson led Southern Miss with 11 of his 16 points coming in the first half. Jonathan Mills added 13 points, LaShay Page had 12 and Johnson 11. Watson finished with seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.

"Our team is growing. It's encouraging," Floyd said. "I love the fact that we were down 13 at Memphis [on Saturday] and were down 16 tonight and came back, because we're going to get down in the conference tournament and we've got a reference point now in terms of how to come back when we're down. Defensive stops, not turning it over, defensive rebounds and not fouling."

The Miners will play at UCF on Saturday at 6 p.m. MT. The game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.
 

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