LAWRENCE, KS (KTSM) — UTEP had Kansas on the ropes in the second half, leading the Jayhawks by 15 with no answer for big man Bryson Williams. However, the Miners were outscored 34-14 in the final 14 minutes of regulation and couldn’t knock down a field goal in the last four minutes of play in their 67-62 loss to No. 13 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
Kansas got a driving go-ahead layup from Marcus Garrett with 22.4 seconds left and a couple poised free throws from Dajuan Harris sealed the win in Lawrence.
“We played a good team tonight,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self. “We weren’t very good for 30 minutes, at all. We played a team that was better than us, but we played 10 really good minutes, so I’m leaving here feeling pretty good.”
Williams looked like the best player on the floor in the first half for the Miners, finishing the game with a game-high 23 points and 13 rebounds. Souley Boum added 16 points and six rebounds, but a turnover in the final minute of regulation proved costly for UTEP.
“I thought we came out with really good energy and really good activity in the first half,” said UTEP head coach Rodney Terry. “We were really guarding and did a great job of blocking out. We did a good job taking care of the basketball — we only had four turnovers in the first half. We know [Kansas] was going to come out in the second half and try to rev it up defensively. We were going to have to be strong with the ball, make physical plays in the post and I thought we did that for the better part of the second half. But we give [Kansas] credit, they battled through it.”
David McCormack scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half and Ochai Agbaji had 19 points to avoid a rare loss inside Allen Fieldhouse in what was supposed to be a Big 12 Tournament tune-up for Kansas.
“This was the largest crowd we’ve played in front of all year,” said Terry. “I thought our guys did a good job for the better part of three quarters of the game keeping the crowd out of it. This building, it’s one where the fans appreciate good basketball, and I thought we did a good job working the game.”
UTEP outrebounded Kansas, 40-34, pulling down 13 offensive boards resulting in 13 second chance points. The Miners got to the free throw line far less than the Jayhawks (UTEP 10-13, Kansas 16-24), a disparity Terry touched on in his postgame comments.
“I don’t make a lot of complaints about the officiating, but we should have been at the foul line 12 minutes into the game,” said Terry. “They’re a good defensive team. They do a great job of guarding, but if you can just climb into a guy and hold them the whole way, that’s really hard to play against.”
UTEP went toe-to-toe with one of the top programs in the nation and will look to use that as motivation in next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas. The Miners will play on Wednesday, March 10 as the No. 5 seed out of the West Division. Their opponent will be determined following this weekend’s slate of games within Conference USA.