MURFREESBORO, Tenn.– Tae Hardy poured in a game-high 21 points while Calvin Solomon added 13 points and UTEP shot 47.4 percent from the floor, but it couldn’t generate enough stops in an 84-72 setback at Middle Tennessee Thursday evening.

The Miners (11-11, 4-7 C-USA) whittled an 11-point deficit (70-59, 6:21) down to just two (74-72, 3:36 2H) before the Blue Raiders (14-9, 7-5 C-USA) tallied the final 10 points in the contest to snuff out the comeback bid.

UTEP was competitive on the boards (28-30), aided by 10+ offensive rebounds (11) for the 11th time in the past 12 games. It also hit its free throws (14-23, 73.9 percent) and piled up 48 points in the paint, but MT compensated for that with a hot shooting night. It connected on a Miner opponent season-high 59.6 percent (34-57) from the floor, including 37.5 percent (6-16) from 3-point range.

After committing nine turnovers in the opening half, the Miners cut that to five after the break to finish with 14. The Blue Raiders also committed 14 giveaways, which UTEP converted into 18 points.

Shamar Givance buoyed Hardy and Solomon with nine points while Jon Dos Anjos and Mario McKinney Jr. each contributed seven points off the bench. MT had a balanced approach offensively with five difference players reaching double figures in scoring.  

“I liked our fight to get back in the game,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We gave ourselves a chance on the road with three minutes to play, but the game got away from us down the stretch. We didn’t have good possessions down the stretch, but more importantly we didn’t get stops. We couldn’t get a stop all night.

“We turned them over some and that got us back in the game,” Golding said. “Offensively, we weren’t great tonight, but there was improvement. We got some things inside. We got in the paint. Our ball movement was better. We’ve got to be better defensively. When we’re locked in, have trust and buy in, we’re a good team. But we’ve got to be good defensively. “

UTEP got on the board first with a score from Otis Frazier III before MT struck back with five straight points to take the lead. An acrobatic lay-in from Hardy halted the surge, but the Blue Raiders went back out by three (9-6, 14:49 1H) heading to the first media timeout.

Two free throws from Dos Anjos made it a one-point contest. It remained that differential (15-14) roughly 10 minutes left in the opening frame only to have the home side rip off five consecutive points to extend the margin to six (20-14, 8:43 1H). A driving lay-up from Solomon halted the sequence. UTEP made another stop and, Hardy snuck out behind the defense for the breakaway dunk to inch the Miners within two (20-18, 8:00 1H).

MT responded with a 6-0 push to extend its advantage to eight (26-18, 5:56 1H). Ze’Rik Onyema halted that with a quality move down low. The Miners then took a charge and Hardy trimmed the deficit to four (26-22, 4:26 1H) with a step through floater in the lane. A quick 7-0 run from Middle Tennessee sent the Orange and Blue down by 11 (33-22, 2:47 1H) and prompted Golding to call timeout.

Derick Hamilton came off the bench and provided instance offense with two quick buckets to make it a seven-point affair (33-26, 1:49 1H). It remained a seven-point difference (38-31) heading to halftime. 

The two sides traded baskets to start the second half, with MT up by nine (47-38, 17:09 2H). McKinney Jr. came up with his team-leading fifth And-1 to cut it to six (47-41) before the visitors went back out by double figures (51-41), with a triple and a free throw from a technical foul against UTEP.

The Miners worked it back down to seven on multiple occasions, including an old-fashioned 3-point play from Kevin Kalu (58-51, 12:03 2H). After the Blue Raiders extended it back to nine, Dos Anjos buried a trey to reduce the margin to six (60-54, 10:51 2H). MT responded with back-to-back scores to reinstate a double-digit cushion.

It was still a double-figure differential (70-59, 6:21 2H) before the Miners started to make their move. UTEP ripped off an 11-2 run claw within a pair (72-70, 4:00 2H), which included tallying the final seven points in the stretch.

The home side still led by just two (74-72, 3:36 2H) before scoring the final 10 points in the game. UTEP concludes the three-game road swing by playing at WKU (2 p.m. MT/3 p.m. MT-Saturday). The match-up with the Toppers will be carried by Stadium.