FRISCO, Texas (KTSM) – Western Kentucky fought back from a 16-point first half deficit to defeat UTEP 73-67 on Wednesday night in the first round of the Conference USA men’s basketball Tournament.

Five players scored in double figures for the Hilltoppers, led by 7’5 center Jamarion Sharp’s 16 points. Dayvion McKnight closed the game down the stretch for WKU with 13 second half points.

UTEP (14-18, 7-13 C-USA) will see the second season of the Joe Golding come to a close despite a valiant effort in Frisco.

“It was a frustrating year, not because they were tough to coach, but we were trying to get there,” Golding said. “All year we were fighting for that inch. We’re not into moral victories. UTEP wants to win. We’re going to get there. I’m excited for the future. I’m not going to forget how hard this team played. Where we were limited in some areas, they gave us everything in other areas.”

The Miners led 22-6 midway through the first half, as Tae Hardy drilled four three-pointers and UTEP held WKU to a 1-10 start from the field.

However, WKU managed to chip into the lead and it was just a six-point game at halftime. The Hilltoppers regained the lead early in the second half and the two sides traded the lead for a while, before WKU took an eight-point lead with under five minutes to go.

UTEP had one last rally in it, as a Shamar Givance three with under 25 seconds to go got UTEP within three points. The Miners forced a turnover and had a chance to tie the game, but Givance and Hardy missed threes that would have gotten UTEP even.

With the off-season now upon them, Golding didn’t want to look too far ahead just yet, but he recognized that changes needed to be made.

“We’ll let them go home for spring break and when they get back, we’ll have meetings and figure life out,” Golding said. “There are things we need to get better at; we need shooters.”

Calvin Solomon had a game-high 18 points for the Miners, Hardy had 16 and Givance had 15 points. Kevin Kalu scored 10 points off the bench for UTEP.

Western Kentucky (17-15, 8-12 C-USA) advances to the C-USA Quarterfinals, where the Hilltoppers will face No. 1 seed FAU on Thursday.