UTEP loses heartbreaker to UAB, 61-60

Sports

POSTED: Saturday, February 4, 2012 - 11:43pm

UPDATED: Sunday, February 5, 2012 - 3:55pm

Jordan Swing returned from injury to score 19 points and accounted for five of UAB's nine three pointers as the Blazers sank UTEP, 61-60, on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.

Swing, who had missed the previous three games with a broken hand, made 7-of-13 shots and 5-of-8 triples in 31 minutes off the bench. UAB's reserves outscored UTEP's 26-2.

The Blazers (9-13, 4-5 C-USA) improved to 3-1 on the road in C-USA play while dealing UTEP (10-13, 3-6 C-USA) its first conference home loss. The Miners have dropped four straight conference games for the first time since the 2002-03 season, with the last three coming in heartbreaking fashion.

The Miners are 11 points away from being 6-3 in C-USA action and tied for fourth place. Instead, they find themselves tied for eighth place with Tulane, East Carolina and Houston with seven league games remaining.

"UAB is a well-coached team," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "We got too much of Jordan Swing offensively and Cameron Moore defensively. He changed a lot of shots and did a nice job on the boards. I thought our interior players played much better than they had in our previous three losses. Tonight it was a case of allowing too much on the perimeter."

UTEP trailed for most of the first half, falling behind 31-27 at the break. The Miners appeared to right the ship by going on a 13-2 run early in the second half to tie their largest lead, 40-35, on a layup by Gabriel McCulley off a Cedrick Lang steal with 11:45 to play.

The Miners were still ahead 49-44 with under seven minutes remaining, but five straight points by Swing tied the game with 5:43 to go. It was a back-and-forth game over the final five minutes before Preston Purifoy broke a 59-59 tie on a jumper with 51 seconds left.

After Purifoy missed a free throw -- and a chance at a three-point play -- McCulley was fouled on the defensive rebound and went to the line. He made the first and missed the second. Following a missed jumper by Swing, Michael Perez misfired on a three point attempt at the buzzer.

The Miners dropped to 1-5 in games decided by five points or less this season.

"We got exposed a little bit on the defensive end late," Floyd said. "I liked their poise, and I liked our poise. We got a big defensive stop on the other end, and we came down and got a quality look. We wanted Jacques [Streeter] to put himself in position to go get fouled. They ran two guys at him and the choice was obvious that he had to kick it. Mike was wide open and we didn't get it down.

"We have had a stretch here where we have fought our tails off. We obviously have not quit. We're competing and could have very easily won these last three games."

John Bohannon scored a career-high 22 points, making 10-of-14 shots, and added eight rebounds for UTEP. Julian Washburn scored 16 points, but they were the only Miners in double figures.

"I like our resiliency," Floyd said. "I like the improvement that Bohannon is making on the interior. I like the improvement that Washburn is making both as a defender and a scorer. I like the fact that he is limiting his turnovers and giving us a chance on both ends of the court. We're just going to keep fighting."

Purifoy scored 12 points, and Cameron Moore had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds for UAB. Moore also blocked six shots and had three steals.

The Miners outshot UAB 45.5 percent to 43.4 percent, but were outrebounded 34-29 and went to the line just nine times, including eight times in the final three minutes.

UTEP will continue a three-game homestand by facing the hottest team in C-USA, Tulsa, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Golden Hurricane started a seven-game winning streak with a 59-48 win over the Miners on Jan. 11 at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
 

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