UTEP looks to continue hot streak at UCF Saturday

UTEP looks to continue hot streak at UCF Saturday
Friday, February 24, 2012 - 6:59pm

Riding a season-long four-game winning streak, UTEP (14-13, 7-6 C-USA) completes a demanding three-game stretch by playing at UCF (19-8, 8-5 C-USA) on Saturday. CBS Sports Network will have national coverage beginning at 6 p.m. MT.

The Miners have passed the first two tests of the difficult triple by winning at Memphis (60-58) on Feb. 18 and knocking off Southern Miss at home (76-68 in double overtime) on Wednesday. UTEP and Murray State are the only two teams to defeat both Memphis and Southern Miss this season.

UTEP has tied its longest C-USA regular season winning streak under coach Tim Floyd at four games. During the streak the Miners have beaten C-USA’s first-place (Memphis), second-place (Southern Miss) and third-place (Tulsa) teams.

UCF is coming off an 83-74 setback at Rice on Wednesday that damaged the Knights’ NCAA Tournament hopes. UCF has played very well at home this season, however, posting a 14-1 record including conference victories over Tulane (60-53), Houston (74-63), Memphis (68-67), Marshall (67-60) and East Carolina (64-55). The Knights’ lone home loss of the season came at the hands of Southern Miss on Jan. 28 (78-65).

The Miners are tied for sixth place in the C-USA standings with Rice and UAB entering the weekend, just a game back of UCF and Marshall, who are tied for fourth place.

The Knights lost a 15-point lead and the game at Rice, 83-74, on Wednesday. UCF was outscored 46-25 in the second half after building a 49-37 lead at the break. Junior forward Keith Clanton led UCF with 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Clanton is averaging 15.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 2.0 bpg on the year. He has also made 32 three-point field goals. Junior guard Marcus Jordan averages 14.7 ppg and sophomore swingman Isaiah Sykes 12.1 ppg.

The Knights are second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage defense (.305). UCF is fourth in the league in rebound margin (+4.2 rpg) led by the 6-9 Clanton and 6-5 Sykes (6.5 rpg). UCF has ample size on the roster with 6-8 Tristan Spurlock (7.9 ppg/4.6 rpg/0.8 bpg) & P.J. Gaynor (4.1 ppg/3.1 rpg) and 6-9 Josh Crittle (4.4 ppg/3.3 rpg).

The series is tied 4-4. UTEP has won three of the last four meetings, although the Knights upended the Miners in El Paso last season, 74-68. UTEP is 1-2 versus UCF in Orlando and 1-1 against the Knights at UCF Arena.

UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 4-1 in his coaching career against UCF. The first four matchups took place during the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons, when Floyd was the head coach at New Orleans and UCF was also a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

UCF used a 17-4 run to build a 39-23 lead late in the first half and held off a second-half rally by the Miners to end UTEP’s 15-game homecourt winning streak, 74-68, on Feb. 21, 2011 at the Haskins Center.

UTEP fell behind by as many as 19 points in the second half, and the final margin was the closest the Miners could get. After UTEP closed the gap to eight points (52-44) on a layup by Randy Culpepper midway through the second period, the Knights answered with an 8-0 spurt.

Keith Clanton had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Marcus Jordan added 13 points as UCF registered its second C-USA road win of the season. Clanton had a huge second half with 13 points and nine boards.

Culpepper led the Miners with 25 points, while Julyan Stone collected 16 and Jeremy Williams 15.

The Miners had their defensive struggles in the first half, permitting UCF to shoot 66.7 percent from the field and 54.5 percent (6-for-11) from three point range. While the Knights hit only 29 percent of their shots over the final 20 minutes, they went to the line a whopping 27 times and scored 35 points, only four fewer than they managed prior to halftime.

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.

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. 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.

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