UTEP freshmanEfe Odigie recorded his 10th career double-double after scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, but LA Tech’s Daquan Bracey scored a game-high 28 points as his Bulldogs (16-10, 6-7 Conference USA) defeated the Miners (8-16, 3-10 C-USA), 71-57, on Thursday night in Thomas Assembly Center.
With 3:58 remaining in the contest, Odigie made a jumper to get the Miners within three points (56-53).
But the Bulldogs put the game away after they answered with back-to-back three-point buckets by Jacolby Pemerton and Amorie Archibald with 2:41 left and a 62-53 lead.
“[LA Tech] hit a couple of big shots and we had opportunities as well that we didn’t take advantage of down the stretch,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “But I give them credit with those big shots.”
UTEP took an early seven-point lead in the first half, but could never regain the lead after the Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run to take a 16-11 advantage.
Jordan Lathon chipped in with 10 points and Kobe Magee tallied nine points on a trio of treys, while leading the Miners with six assists. Kaosi Ezeagu, who made his second consecutive start, contributed with four points and six rebounds. Odigie shot 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-6 from the charity stripe.
LA Tech took a 37-30 lead coming out of the tunnel off a Daquan Bracey bucket. But the Miners fought back to tie the contest at 37-37. Kaosi Ezeagu threw down a dunk, while Lathon hit a jumper and Magee a three.
After LA Tech took a 43-38 lead, Nigel Hawkins connected on his first bucket of the game, a three pointer at the 14:25 mark to get his squad within three points (43-41).
LA Tech would build its biggest lead (50-42), but Odigie ended a 5-0 run on a jumper in the paint off an assist by Hawkins. Lathon then stole the ball on the Bulldogs’ next possession, passed the ball to Hawkins, who almost threw down a thunderous dunk but did draw the foul. Hawkins made both free throws to make the count 50-46 with just over 10 minutes in regulation.
UTEP jumped out to an 11-4 lead after back-to-back threes from Thomas and Magee 16 minutes into the first period. The Miners started by making their first trio of three-point attempts. Lathon connected on the first one for the contest’s first points.
The Bulldogs, however, would answer with 12-0 run. UTEP would tie the game on a trio of occasions. Odigie made the score 23-23 after a bucket in the paint (5:41), Lathon hit his second trey of the half to make the count 28-28 (2:19) and Odigie tied the game again (30-30) on a layup with 1:35 remaining.
The Bulldogs scored the next five points, led by Bracey’s three points to take a 35-30 halftime lead.
LA Tech shot 4-of-11 from the free-throw line, while UTEP was a perfect 3-for-3. The Bulldogs, despite the struggles at the line, shot 56.0 percent (14-25) from the field to the Miners’ 36.7 percent.
UTEP will travel to Hattiesburg to face Southern Miss on Saturday. The Miners and Golden Eagles are set to tipoff at 1 p.m. MT/2 CT in Reed Green Coliseum. The contest will be streamed on ESPN+.