UTEP slows down high flying Houston in 20-point victory at home
Gabriel McCulley scored a career-high 22 points, and UTEP outscored Houston 37-19 in the second half on its way to a 70-50 victory over the Cougars on Saturday at the Haskins Center.
The Miners (8-8, 1-1 C-USA) won for the 18th time in their last 19 Conference USA home games, while improving to 10-1 all-time versus UH in El Paso.
UTEP enjoyed a slim 33-31 lead at the half, then blew the Cougars (9-6, 1-1 C-USA) out of the water over the final 20 minutes. Houston shot 27.6 percent (8-for-29) from the field after the break and was outrebounded 25-9 -- including 20-6 on the defensive glass.
The Miners enjoyed a rebounding advantage (35-20) for just the second time in 10 games.
"It was a great team effort defensively, and there were some great individual efforts defensively," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "The 35-20 [rebounding differential] was just amazing based on what we just went through over at Marshall where we got pounded [on the boards]. It's a young team, and there were a lot of minutes out there where we had four freshmen on the floor at one time. It's all a part of the process, trying to learn from your mistakes, trying to build on it, trying to understand why you got beat. You hope you have guys who get bothered when they get beat, and that they'll respond and try to improve."
The decisive run came from the 13:14 mark of the second half to 7:02, in which UTEP outscored Houston 14-3 to push a 43-39 lead to 57-42.
"We were playing off of their bigs at the high post in the first half, trying to protect the block, because in their game against Tulsa [Wednesday] every possession in the first 12 minutes went to either the left or the right block," Floyd said. "We were trying to provide front and back side help and dare some of those other guys to shoot it. They made a couple. We also felt like we got hurt on a couple of stagger screens set by that guy high when we went up there to hedge and recover. We started extending a little bit to those guys and that probably helped us."
UTEP shot 66.7 percent in the second half, finishing at a season-high 61.2 percent on the night. The last time UTEP shot 60 percent in a game was versus Delaware State on Nov. 21, 2004 (62.5 percent).
UTEP's top three scorers -- McCulley, Julian Washburn (19 points) and John Bohannon (14) -- were a combined 24-for-33 from the field, including 14-for-18 in the second half. Bohannon had eight rebounds in the second half, finishing with 11 for his fourth career double-double. Washburn tied his career-high scoring total.
The Miners' leading scorer coming in, Michael Perez, did not play after rolling his ankle in practice earlier in the day. He is expected to return for the Miners' next game at Tulsa on Wednesday (6 p.m. MT).
Houston, which entered the game averaging a C-USA best 79.4 points, was held to a season-low point total. The Cougars had four players averaging over 10 points per game coming in, but only one finished in double figures on Saturday as Joseph Young scored 10 of his 14 in the first half.
"The game was dictated much like our game at Marshall, by the rebounding," Floyd said. "We got second chance opportunities, we were able to get out in transition which we could not do at Marshall, and we were able to stay out of foul trouble with our bigs because we were able to get the ball off the defensive board."