EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s not always pretty, but early in the 2022-23 season, UTEP keeps finding ways to gut out wins.
The Miners survived a late charge by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to beat the Islanders 72-67 on Friday afternoon at the Don Haskins Center in the finale of the Jim Forbes Classic presented by Speaking Rock.
UTEP led by as many as 20 points in the second half, before Corpus Christi got as close as two points with two minutes left. Some key stops down the stretch helped UTEP get the job done, despite 20 costly turnovers
The Miners (5-1) have now won five straight contests, including picking up three victories in a four-day span to go a perfect 3-0 at the multi-team event.
Two of those triumphs came against league champions and postseason teams from a year ago in the form of Alcorn State (NIT) and A&M-Corpus Christi (NCAA).
“I actually like some of these close games, you learn how to play in them and you get more comfortable,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “Our guys were more comfortable when it got closer than they were when it was 20 as crazy as it sounds. These guys haven’t been up 20. Every game is a different lesson. We’re comfortable being in these close games.”
A three from Jamari Sibley (12 points) gave the Miners their biggest lead of the game midway through the second half at 58-38 and Otis Frazier’s layup again pushed the lead to 20 points a few moments later. From there, though, the Islanders went on a 23-5 run to cut the deficit to just two points late.
From there, though, the Miners did what they have over the last three days and closed the game out with defense. UTEP is getting used to playing close games; the Miners played overtime games on both Tuesday and Wednesday and won both of them.
“We stayed together, we fought, we believed,” said Sibley, who tied with Tae Hardy for the team lead with 12 points. “We always believe.”
UTEP will now have five days off before playing at rival New Mexico State in the Battle of I-10 on Nov. 30 in Las Cruces at 7 p.m.