UTEP Struggles With Southern Miss
– Aaron Brown scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, and Michael Craig had a double-double as Southern Miss whipped UTEP on the boards in a 64-56 C-USA quarterfinal win on Thursday.
The Miners (23-10) were eliminated from the Conference USA Championship in El Paso. Southern Miss (27-5) advanced to the semifinals and will face top seed Louisiana Tech (26-6) on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Friday’s other semifinal matches Tulsa (19-12) and Middle Tennessee (24-8) at 2 p.m. as the four league regular season co-champions will all take the floor on Friday.
“No one likes losing,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We have a great basketball team. We have a tremendous basketball community who has seen great basketball. I’m not any more disappointed than our players are. We just happened to play against a team that had multiple ball handlers, who were able to create plays and just did a great job.”
UTEP led just once against Southern Miss, 24-22 when Jake Flaggert hit two free throws with 2:42 remaining in the first half.
The Golden Eagles scored the next 15 points to surge ahead 37-24.
Down 51-37 midway through the second half, the Miners tried to mount a late rally. They went on an 11-0 run, including three pointers by Flaggert and Julian Washburn, to close to 51-48 with 5:47 to play.
Brown nailed a three to push the lead to six (54-48). The Miners pulled within four points three times in the last five minutes, the last at 58-54 with 2:53 remaining. UTEP got a stop, but Vince Hunter turned the ball over on the ensuing offensive possession. Craig dunked at the 1:37 mark, putting the game all but out of reach.
UTEP was crushed on the boards, 45-28, as the Golden Eagles collected 20 offensive rebounds. Southern Miss doubled up the Miners in second chance points, 14-7.
“The biggest difference of the game was on the glass,” Floyd said. “They did a very fine job. They are a very physical team. They are very aggressive and they play well together. I thought they drove the ball much better than we did tonight. We just didn’t do a good enough job.”
Craig finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for Southern Miss, which shot 41 percent from the field.
Washburn scored 16 points and Hunter added 14 for the Miners, who shot 38.8 percent.
Both teams struggled from beyond the arc. Southern Miss finished 3-for-22 from three-point range and UTEP was 3-for-18. C.J. Cooper had a tough night for the Miners, scoring five points and missing 12 of 14 shots and 10 of 11 three pointers.