Culpepper's Big Night Carries UTEP Past UCF

Jan. 23, 2010

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Randy Culpepper scored a career-high 39 points and tied the Conference USA record with nine three-pointers as UTEP blitzed UCF, 96-59, on Saturday in Orlando.

It was the second-biggest road win in school history and the largest margin of victory ever on the road in a conference game.

Culpepper scored 25 points in the second half and finished 13-for-20 from the field, 9-for-15 from beyond the arc and 4-for-5 from the charity stripe. His previous career-high for points was 35, and the nine three-pointers shattered his own school standard of eight, established on Dec. 29, 2008 versus James Madison.

"I've never had a game like that since I've been at UTEP," Culpepper said. "In the first half I came out and hit a couple of threes, and something told me that I should keep shooting because it was going to be a good night. I was talking to my roommate Gabe McCulley at the hotel earlier today and he told me he had a feeling that I was going to get 40 tonight, and that's exactly what happened."

Culpepper is the fourth player in C-USA history to make nine three-pointers in a game, joining UAB's Robert Vaden and Charlotte's Demon Brown and Brendan Plavich.

He moved into seventh place on UTEP's all-time scoring list on Saturday, passing Roy Smallwood with 1,388 points. The 39 points are the ninth-most ever by a Miner player.

The Miners' 96-59 pasting of the Knights stands only behind a 104-61 rout of Texas Southern on Dec. 29, 2007 on the list of UTEP's biggest road wins ever.

Coupled with Wednesday's 72-67 victory at Memphis, UTEP swept a two-game conference road trip for the first time since February of 2005, when the Miners were members of the Western Athletic Conference. UTEP won at San Jose State (70-62) and Hawaii (71-67) that month.

"I love how the kids responded," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "We haven't done well in the past with extended road trips."

Despite four starters having their minutes curtailed in the first half due to foul trouble, the Miners (13-5, 4-1 C-USA) took a 44-41 lead into the locker room. Myron Strong, in particular, gave UTEP a lift in the opening period, providing four points, six assists, two steals and three rebounds in relief of Julyan Stone.

"With the foul trouble in the first half, I thought our guys stepped up and gave us some good minutes," Barbee said.

The second half ranked among the most dominant efforts in school history, with the Miners outscoring the Knights (10-9, 2-3 C-USA) 52-18 and holding them to a .188 field goal percentage on 6-for-32 shooting.

UTEP scored the last two points of the first half and the first eight of the second half, building a 52-41 lead. Then it was off to the races behind Culpepper's three-point barrage.

"What a half for Randy," Barbee said. "That's what they call one of those zones ... he was definitely in the zone."

Barbee said a key in the second half was keeping the ball out of the hands of UCF's whirling dervish point guard A.J. Rompza, who scored 11 points with three assists and four steals in the opening stanza. In the second half Rompza was 1-for-4 from the floor and 0-for-2 from three-point territory with one assist and two takeaways.

"We changed our press a little bit in the second half," Barbee said. "Rompza is a hard-nosed kid from Chicago who plays with that kind of intensity. We just made it really hard on him in the second half."

UTEP will be home for three of its next four games, hosting Tulane on Wednesday (7:05 p.m.), Houston on Feb. 3 (8 p.m.) and Tulsa on Feb. 6 (8 p.m.).



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