MINERS
UTEP Knocks Off UAB For First Win Over Ranked Team Since 2001

Derrick Caracter

Derrick Caracter

Jan. 30, 2010

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Christian Polk banked in a three-pointer to start the second overtime, giving UTEP a 66-63 lead that it never relinquished en route to a 74-65 upset of 25th-ranked UAB on Saturday at Bartow Arena.

The Miners (15-5, 6-1 C-USA) beat a ranked team for the first time since topping no. 20 Fresno State, 80-61, on Feb. 17, 2001 in El Paso. It was UTEP's first road win over a ranked squad since a 90-85 overtime triumph at no. 15 Utah on March 12, 1993. The Miners are 6-41 all-time versus ranked teams on the road.

UTEP had lost its last 13 games to ranked foes before breaking through against the Blazers.

Just as important, the Miners moved into a tie for first place in the Conference USA standings with the Blazers (18-3, 6-1), who suffered their first home loss in 11 games this season. It was only UAB's third defeat in its last 40 home games over the last three seasons.

"I'm so proud of our kids," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "We toughed it out against a top-25 team. It was a hell of a defensive effort, holding them to 28 percent shooting from the field.

"Our guys did it all. They made the plays. The keys for us going into the game were poise, composure and confidence. Everybody had a great game. That's the best thing about this team, our balance."

UTEP thought it had the game won in regulation when Julyan Stone hit a runner as time expired, but goal tending was called on Arnett Moultrie on the play and the score remained tied at 58.

There were 16 ties and 17 lead changes in the game. The Miners led by as many as nine points in regulation and were in control most of the way. But a 12-4 run by UAB turned a 48-43 deficit into a 50-47 lead with 6:33 to play. UTEP answered with free throws by Randy Culpepper and a jumper by Derrick Caracter to regain a 51-50 advantage with 5:53 remaining, and it was a seesaw battle the rest of the way.

UTEP appeared to catch a break late in regulation when Blazers guard Aaron Johnson broke his nose and had to leave the game. Johnson was playing well with 15 points in 36 minutes.

"I hated to see Johnson get hurt. He's such a key part of their team," Barbee said.

After the teams combined for only two field goals in the first overtime, the Miners took command in the second extra session. Polk buried the three pointer, and after Howard Crawford's jumper pulled UAB to within a point (66-65), UTEP reeled off a run of eight straight points to close it out.

UAB was 2-for-14 from the field in the two overtimes and shot just 28.2 percent on the night.

Caracter posted his fifth double-double of the season with 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Miners, who have won three straight conference road games for the first time since February of 2005.

"We wanted to stay mentally strong and just keep on pushing," Caracter said. "Going to overtime we had to think positive and believe that this was our game. We knew that we weren't going to get any calls playing in their gym and we just had to keep battling. Everybody contributed today. It was a great win for us."

Jeremy Williams scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half when several of his teammates battled foul trouble. Culpepper added 14 points and Polk had 11 for UTEP.

"We thought we had it won in regulation, but coach told us it was our game to win in overtime," Polk said. "My teammates found me and I was fortunate to hit some shots, but it was a total team effort. Everybody contributed."

Kenneth Cooper led UAB with 18 points off the bench.

The Miners return home for a pair of home games this week, taking on Houston Wednesday and Tulsa Saturday. Both games are at 8 p.m. MT.