EL PASO, Texas – The UTEP men’s basketball team fought back from a 14-point (19-5) deficit eight minutes into the contest on the way to knocking off UTSA, 69-57, at the Don Haskins Center Wednesday evening.
It marks the biggest comeback of the Joe Golding era and the largest in three years. The Orange and Blue fought back from 13 down to best UTSA (69-64, Jan. 20, 2022) last year while overcoming a 19-point differential to knock off Rice (68-62, Feb. 22, 2020) in the ’19-20 campaign.
The Miners (9-7, 2-3 C-USA shot 44.6 percent from the floor, nailed eight 3-pointers (most vs. DI foe this year), connected on 73.3 at the charity stripe (11-15), won the boards (34-26) and forced 21 turnovers that led to a season high (vs. D1 opposition) 35 points off giveaways. All of that allowed them to overcome the Roadrunners (7-10, 1-5 C-USA) connecting on 46.8 percent of their shots, including 40.0 percent (6-15) from distance.
“I give a lot of credit to UTSA. They had a great gameplan and jumped on us early,” Golding said. “I subbed all five guys out and even though the score didn’t change, I thought those guys came in and gave us some energy. Then we were able to bring our starters back in and kind of get going a bit.
“The biggest key to the game was to be able to turn them over and create points off turnovers because we knew they were going to sit in a zone all night. We get 35 points off turnovers, which was a huge key to the game, and then obviously value the basketball. We had 14 turnovers. I’m just happy for the guys.”
Tae Hardy (15 points) Shamar Givance (12 points) and Jon Dos Anjos (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring for UTEP, which improved to 9-2 at home this season. It marked the sixth consecutive double-digit scoring effort for Givance.
UTSA was paced by John Buggs III’s game-high 23 points.
Calvin Solomon contributed across the board with six points and game highs in both rebounds (nine) and steals (three). Mario McKinney pitched in six points, four boards and two helpers off the bench. UTEP recorded 14 assists on 25 field goals made and committed just 14 giveaways.
UTSA opened the game on a 7-0 push over the first three minutes before Jamari Sibley curled off a screen to knock down a triple and get the Miners on the board. It was a five-point differential (10-5, 14:44 1H) before the Roadrunners ripped off nine straight to force Golding to call timeout with the Orange and Blue trailing by 14 (19-5, 11:57 1H).
After a couple of stops, UTEP started to get things in gear offensively. Solomon made a spin-around lay-up, which was followed by an old-fashioned 3-point play by Givance to bring the Miners within single digits (19-10, 8:42 1H). The Miners forced another misfire by UTSA, and at the other end of the court Ze’Rik Onyema slammed home a dunk off a feed from Solomon. The Roadrunners ended the 7-0 splurge with a pair of free throws, putting the deficit back at nine (21-12, 7:25 1H).
The Miners had an answer, ripping off seven straight points to cut the margin down to two (21-19, 5:55 1H), making the Roadrunners call timeout in the process. Givance initiated it with a back-door layup. That was followed by the and-1 from Frazier III and a fastbreak lay-up from Hardy. The timeout proved ineffective, with the run reaching 12-0 after Dos Anjos banked home a triple before burying a jumper, putting UTEP up three (24-21).
UTSA finally stopped the run by the Miners with back-to-back scores, regaining the lead in the process at 25-24 (3:19 1H). Hardy sent UTEP back ahead after a friendly bounce on a trey, which was followed by a triple from Dos Anjos. That capped a 25-6 Miner run spanning 11 minutes to turn a 14-point deficit (19-5) into a five-point cushion (30-25). UTSA accounted for the final two points of the stanza, but UTEP still led by three (30-27) heading into the locker room.
The Miners got back-to-back triples from Hardy and Givance, respectfully, to start the second half, stretching their advantage to nine (36-27, 18:32 2H). UTEP was still up by eight (47-39, 13:00 2H) before the Roadrunners got an and-1 to inch within five (47-42, 11:06 2H).
The Orange and Blue dialed up their defense to halt the push. They forced consecutive baskets that led to respective fastbreak lay-ups from Frazier III and Givance and reinstated a nine-point advantage (53-44, 7:30 2H) as UTSA called timeout.
The Roadrunners eventually whittled the UTEP lead down to two (57-55, 3:02 2H). It was a 3-point differential (58-55, 2:38 2H) when Frazier III took a key charge to wipe out a basket. The Miners then got a clutch triple from Hardy at the other end to make it a six-point contest (61-55, 2:19 2H).
After UTSA misfired on a free throw, Solomon sank two of his own to extend the cushion to eight (63-55, 1:34 2H). UTEP came up with another stop before McKinney drilled a pair from the charity stripe to afford the Miners their first double-digit lead (65-55, 1:14 2H) of the contest. UTEP then took care of business defensively and at the free-throw line to close out the affair. The Miners open a two-game road trip by playing at Rice at 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. CT on Saturday.