EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – UTEP (7-3, 1-0 Conference USA) grabbed a 60-55 win over Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA play opener at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday night.
This was the first time since the 2015-16 season that UTEP opened up Conference USA play with a win. UTEP also remains unbeaten in seven games at the Don Haskins Center in the 2022-23 season
UTEP got back to their defensive ways and was a major reason they secured the win over LA Tech. The Bulldogs shot 29.6% from the field and 16% from three-point land. Guarding the three-point line was something UTEP wanted to improve on after suffering 20-point losses to New Mexico State and DePaul, where both teams hit more than10 threes in the contest. The Bulldogs shot 5-of-15 from three-point land.
UTEP forced 20 turnovers and score 13 points off of them. UTEP also managed to steal the ball 11 times, first game this season they’ve recorded 10+ steals against a Division I opponent.
On offense, UTEP continued to show some struggles. The Miners shot 44.4% from the floor and 33.3% from three-point land. The big eye opener was UTEP’s free throw shooting. The Miners shot 15-of-37 (40.5%) from the charity stripe. Despite the poor free throw shooting, UTEP did what is does best, grind out a win.
“The narrative out there is going to be the free-throw shooting. Absolutely we need to get better making free throws,” UTEP men’s basketball head coach Joe Golding said. “We’re practicing free throws. We’re going to get better at it. We all understand that, but we just beat a really good basketball team and we were 15-37 at the free-throw line. Why did we beat a good team? We got back to who we are defensively. We held them to four threes, 29 percent from the floor and we had some toughness plays, multiple effort plays all night. That’s growth for me with our locker room.”
Tae Hardy was UTEP’s leading scorer with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor. He was the only Miner to score in double-digits. Carlos Lemus recorded 8 points; Mario McKinney Jr. had 7 points. Kavin Kalu, Shamar Givance, and Calvin Solomon each 6 points.
LA Tech was led by Cobe Williams’ 18 points. Isaiah Crawford (12 points) and Keaston Willis (11 points) were the other two Bulldogs who finished the night in double digit scoring.
Up next, UTEP will have its sights set on winning out in the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational that starts this upcoming week. UTEP will open up with a game against North Carolina A&T on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at the Don Haskins Center.