UTEP Bounces Auburn, Grabs Third Place at Diamond Head Classic
POSTED: Sunday, December 25, 2011 - 10:52pm
UPDATED: Monday, December 26, 2011 - 12:48am
John Bohannon tied his career-high with 20 points, and Michael Perez hit a couple big threes late once again as UTEP held off Auburn, 83-76, to claim third place at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic on Sunday.
The Miners (6-6) continued their surge, winning for the fourth time in five games and going 2-1 in the tournament while facing three teams (Clemson, Kansas State, Auburn) from power conferences.
"I'm pleased with the fact that we're continuing to get a little better," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "Obviously that was the only way to go when you start as bad as we started. We couldn't crack 50 [points] against Sul Ross early in the year and now we're starting to get a feel for it. It's not necessarily how quick you shoot it, but the quality of shot you take and we're getting better shots."
The Miners shot 65 percent in the second half and 53.1 percent on the day and placed five players in double figure scoring for a second straight game as Perez (18), Jacques Streeter (12) Gabriel McCulley (10) and Cedrick Lang (10) joined Bohannon.
"Guys are getting more confidence every time out," Floyd said. "Defensively I noticed some slippage the last two ballgames, just because we haven't been able to work and re-emphasize with the day off yesterday. We're not as committed as we need to be there right now. Thank goodness we made a bunch of shots."
The Miners were in control for most of the first half and led 37-31 at the break. Auburn (8-3) scored the first four points of the second half, and the game was closely contested until the Tigers scored put together a 6-0 spurt to take their largest lead, 50-45, with 12:03 to play.
The Miners answered with nine straight points and went up 54-50 on a dunk by Lang with 8:34 left. After Auburn closed to within 60-59 on a three-pointer by Chris Denson with 5:26 remaining, Perez knocked down a triple to key an 8-2 run that ended with the Miners ahead 68-61 and under four minutes to go.
Bohannon drove and scored at the 2:49 mark with the Miners nursing a 68-65 lead, and he made a couple of free throws with 50 seconds to play after Auburn cut the deficit to 73-69. McCulley, C.J. Cooper and Perez iced the win with free throws.
"Perez knocked down a couple big late threes for us that really helped," Floyd said. "Streeter knocked down a couple of big threes for us that really helped when things got tight in the second half. And John Bohannon had the game of his career. He wasn't a mistake player, he took quality shots, and he was willing to move the ball understanding that it would come back to him."
Cooper (seven points) and Julian Washburn (six) completed the Miners' scoring. Kenny Gabriel led Auburn with 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting. The Tigers' top two scorers, Frankie Sullivan and Rob Chubb, were a combined 2-for-11 for seven points.
The Miners finished 22-for-29 from the line led by Bohannon, who was 8-for-9 and is 19-for-21 over the last five games.
"We got down and were able to regain our poise and go back and understand that the foul line can be an ally to us," Floyd said. "We got in the one-and-one with 14 minutes to go when we were struggling a little bit offensively. We were able to get to the foul line off of penetrations, off of drives and off of sets to go shoot free throws and get our head back up."
The Miners will take on former Western Athletic Conference rival Colorado State in the 50th annual Bank of the West Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.