EL PASO, Texas – UTEP piled up 36 points in the paint, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a barrage of 3-pointers from visiting Charlotte in a 62-53 setback at the Don Haskins Center Thursday.
The loss was UTEP’s fifth straight defeat, as the Miners haven’t won a game since Jan. 19 at home vs. FIU. Calvin Solomon (16 points) and Tae Hardy (12) points led UTEP in scoring in the loss.
Charlotte shot 47.7 percent from the floor, including nailing 13-27 from three-point range, while UTEP was just 1-15 from deep, a major stat in the game as UTEP out-shot the 49ers from inside the arc.
Charlotte featured a balanced offense with six different players tallying at least seven points, include Montre Gipson (15 points) and Lu’cye Patterson (10 points) in double figures.
“Charlotte can shoot the basketball,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We were able to take them out of their stuff at their place, but we didn’t have it tonight. Give them credit, they made the extra pass and made shots. We went small in the second half to switch everything and take away the threes, but then obviously we couldn’t score the basketball with that lineup. It was just a frustrating night on that side of the floor.
“That’s the game, they hit 13 threes and we go 1-15,” Golding continued. “We didn’t get off to a good start (in the second half). We came in wanting to control the paint and turn them over. We outscored them 21-10 off turnovers, 36-16 in the paint, 10-0 on second-chance points and 17-5 on fastbreak points. It was the 3-point line (that was the difference in the game). Give Charlotte credit. We’re going to continue to fight. Our guys haven’t quit.”
UTEP led by four points at halftime, but a huge Charlotte run to open the second saw the lead balloon to 18 points at one point in the second half.
The Miners mounted a charge, getting as close as six points multiple times late, but missed shots and turnovers down the stretch doomed UTEP to the defeat.
UTEP was without third-leading scorer Mario McKinney Jr. on Thursday, as Golding said after the game that he had been suspended indefinitely. McKinney Jr. was benched in the second half of last Saturday’s loss to Western Kentucky, then missed practice all week leading up to the Charlotte game.
Golding said after the Miners’ Thursday night loss that McKinney Jr. may not see the floor again for UTEP.
“I’d rather talk about the guys that are here, but right now he’s suspended indefinitely,” Golding said. “I’d probably guess that (Mario) probably won’t play here again. But that’s it and I want to talk about the guys who are on the team.”
McKinney Jr. has averages of 8.9 points and 3.8 rebounds for UTEP in 2022-23 after transferring over in the offseason from New Mexico State.
UTEP is back on the road to wrap a stretch of six of nine away from home when it plays at UTSA at 2 p.m. MT/3 p.m. CT Saturday.