Nigel Hawkins produced another solid road effort, leading UTEP with 17 points and five rebounds, while Evan Gilyard scored 16 points. But WKU took advantage of the Miners’ overall poor shooting and came out with a 76-59 victory on Saturday night at E.A Diddle Arena.
Charles Bassey (17 points, 12 rebounds) registered his Conference USA-leading 11th double-double to lead the Hilltoppers (13-10, 6-4 C-USA), while the Miners (7-14, 2-8 C-USA) shot only 36.1 percent from the field.
UTEP got within two points (43-41) after Hawkins converted a layup on a fast break early in the second period. However, WKU went on a 9-0 run to go up 52-41 after a Josh Anderson jumper at the 12:22 mark.
The Miners fought back to get within four points (54-50) on a Hawkins three with 8:42 remaining in the contest.
“We had opportunities in the second half,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “But we didn’t guard quite as well as we did in the first half.We cut it to a two-possession game and had opportunities to make it a game down the stretch, but we didn’t get meaningful stops when we had to and then we didn’t come down and finished on offense.
After cutting the deficit to four points, WKU outscored UTEP 22-9 to end the game.
Efe Odigie scored eight points and tallied four rebounds, while Kobe Magee chipped in with eight points on a pair of three-point buckets, including one that got the Miner within seven points (63-57) with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Jordan Lathon and Magee each recorded three assists. Lathon added four points, three rebounds and two blocks.
Gilyard left the contest with an injury, but returned to finish the contest with the Miners down 11 points (52-41). He returned at about the 10 minutes left in the game and scored six consecutive points. Gilyard connected on three free throws and hit a three-point basket to make the count 54-47 at the 9:40 mark.
The Miners kept the turnovers (11) minimal, while blocking five shots and hitting on 81.8 percent of their free throws.
Anderson led WKU with 18 points, while Jared Savage tallied 14 points. The Hilltoppers outrebounded the Miners, 41-32, including 11 on the offensive side that led to 19 second-chance points.
During the first half, the Miners took a 20-18 lead after Hawkins converted on a pair of free throws with over seven minutes remaining in the half. WKU, however, answered with a 14-2 run to take 32-22 lead. Anderson accounted for 12 of those points, while Bassey made a jumper in the paint.
Again, as they have all season, the Miners answered WKU’s run with a run of their own led by Gilyard. The Miners went on a 9-2 run to close the half as Gilyard accounted for four of the points. Hawkins started the run on a made free throw at the 3:15 mark. Ountae Campbell made jumper in the paint and Magee’s jumper with 31 seconds remaining got his squad back within three points (34-31) heading into the locker room.
Lamonte Bearden attempted a jumper, but Kaosi Ezeagu recorded his second blocked shot to end the half.
The Miners played a clean first half in terms of turnovers, only committing four.
UTEP will host Florida Atlantic on Thursday, Feb. 7 with tipoff starting at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center. Tickets, starting at $8, are available by calling (915) 747-5234. Student tickets are available by visiting studenttickets.utep.edu. The Miners will then host FIU on Saturday night at 7 p.m.