EL PASO, Texas – Shamar Givance hit a pair of free throws with three seconds left in overtime as the UTEP men’s basketball team toppled CSU Bakersfield, 68-67, to improve to 2-0 at the Jim Forbes Classic presented by Speaking Rock on Wednesday night.
There were seven ties and 16 lead changes in the game, including eight alone in the five-minute overtime period. The Roadrunners (3-2) were up by one, 65-64, with 14 seconds left before Mario McKinney (career-high 17 points, eight boards), sank two clutch free throws to put UTEP (4-1) ahead by one. CSUB’s Cedquavious Hunter knocked down a jumper with seven seconds to play, giving the visitors a one-point edge (67-66).
With no timeouts left, Givance (season-high 14 points) drove the length of the court and was fouled in the middle of the lane. He then calmly sank both tosses at the charity stripe to clinch UTEP’s fourth consecutive win. It also marked the first time since the 2016-17 season that the Miners have won back-to-back overtime contests. On Tuesday, UTEP bested Alcorn State, 73-61, in double OT.
Ze’Rik Onyema (10 points) hit double figures for the fifth time in as many games this year to join McKinney and Givance in double figures for scoring. Tae Hardy (seven points), who nailed an important triple in overtime, Jamari Sibley (seven points) and Carlos Lemus (seven points), showed flashes on offense as well.
The Miners connected on 49.1 percent from the floor while holding CSUB to 39.1 percent. UTEP forced 17 turnovers that led to 23 points. The Roadrunners won the boards (44-30) but it wasn’t enough to make up in other areas.
“Toughness wins right now in our program,” UTEP head coach Joe Golding said. “We’re not playing smart on some stuff. We’ve got to clean a bunch up, that’s coaching and not on our players. Our toughness and our grit, I’m extremely proud of our guys. We had a double-overtime game last night and to come back in a back-and-forth game and go to overtime (and win), I’m just really proud of them.
“Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but you make the plays when you have to,” Golding said. “We are guarding our butt off. We’re playing with a ton of effort, making multiple effort plays. We took charges the first half.”
The Miners got on the board first with a patient move by Calvin Solomon in the post. It was back-and-forth over the next four-and-a half minutes, with five lead changes. CSUB was up by one (7-6) before the Miners went on a 15-0 run spanning six minutes to suddenly vault out by 14 (21-7, 8:57 1H). The defensive pressure by UTEP gave CSUB fits, forcing nine giveaways during the stretch.
At the other end of the court, six different Miners scored during the run. Furthermore, 10 of the 15 points came from giveaways. Lemus led the push with five points, including burying a triple in transition. Givance had a finger roll lay-up after Hardy came up with a steal and found him ahead of the pack while Onyema powered home a dunk as well to bring the crowd to its feet.
The Roadrunners finally ended the run with a jumper by Cameron Smith with 8:29 left in the stanza. A step-back triple from Givance extended UTEP’s margin to 15 (24-9, 7:15 1H) before CSUB countered with a 6-0 push to get within single digits (24-15, 3:24 1H). The Miners called timeout to regroup and eventually nudged their cushion to 13 (34-21) heading into the locker room. UTEP scored twice in the final 35 seconds, with Onyema’s third dunk of the opening half and an offensive putback from Mario McKinney to beat the buzzer.
CSUB opened up the second half on an 12-1 push to cut the Miner lead to two (35-31) with 14:14 remaining in regulation. Sibley buried a step-back three after a pump fake to halt the run and put UTEP up five (38-33, 13:49 2H). The Roadrunners responded with six straight points, including a rare four-point play, to take the lead at 39-38. UTEP answered on the ensuing possession with a dunk from McKinney to pull back ahead.
After the Orange and Blue forced a shot-block violation, McKinney used a backdoor cut for another dunk off a sneaky feed by Solomon. It was a one-point UTEP edge before back-to-back scores, including an alley-hoop hammered home from Hardy on a perfect lob by McKinney, put the Miners up five (46-41, 9:37 2H).
It remained a five-point cushion with the game hitting crunch time before a long trey by Kaleb Higgins was pure to cut the Miner advantage to two (50-48) with 2:36 left on the clock. CSUB then tied the tilt with a minute to play after a jumper by Smith off an offensive rebound.
After UTEP misfired on its end, the Roadrunners had a chance to take the lead but Givance had other ideas. He stole the inbounds pass and drove it down the court for the lay-up to afford UTEP a 54-52 edge. Higgins then couldn’t get a shot to go and the Miners came up with the rebound. After a couple of CSUB fouls, Givance went to the line where he split the pair to put UTEP up three (55-52) with 10 ticks left.
Higgins was then fouled with 3-seconds left on a 3-point attempt, making all three tosses to send it overtime.
Onyema came up with an offensive board off a missed free throw on UTEP’s first possession of the extra period. CSUB pulled within one at with a free throw and then nudged ahead on a corner trey by Higgins after an offensive rebound.
UTEP struck back with five straight points, including a triple by Hardy, to lead by three (62-59, 3:03 OT). Four consecutive points from the visitors sent them back up (63-62) with just under two minutes to play. UTEP then used three free throws to regain the lead (64-63), but a lay-up by Higgins afforded the Roadrunners a one-point lead (65-64) with 43 seconds.
That set the stage for the wild finish, with the Orange and Blue making enough plays to come away victorious. UTEP will wrap up the Jim Forbes Classic presented by Speaking Rock by facing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on 2 p.m. Friday.