Jackson Lifts Miners Past Cougars

March 13, 2008

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Stefon Jackson hit a jumper with 11 seconds left that put the Miners ahead to stay, and UTEP beat Houston for the second time in six days with a 80-77 victory Thursday putting the Miners into the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

The sixth-seeded Miners (19-12) hadn't won three straight in the month of March since 2005 when they won the Western Athletic Conference tournament, and now they're on a three-game streak that is their longest since December when they won five straight.

No. 3 seed Houston (22-9) came in looking to reach the semifinals for a third straight year, but the Cougars couldn't hold onto an early lead or late after Robert McKiver tried to rally Houston by scoring 14 of his 24 points in the final 6:18.

Jackson finished with 23 points for UTEP. Marvin Kilgore added 18, Tavaris Watts 12 and Randy Culpepper 10.

Kelvin Lewis added 21 with 19 from Dion Dowell for Houston.

McKiver almost single-handedly lifted the Cougars to victory, taking over toward the end. His two free throws with 20.6 seconds remaining put Houston up 77-76. Jackson answered with his jumper, then McKiver lost the ball driving to the basket.

Jackson hit the final two free throws with 2.5 seconds left, and McKiver's desperation heave hit off the backboard after the buzzer.

Houston, which had been trying to reach the semifinals for a third straight year, opened the second half with a 12-4 run and went up 47-46 on a pair of free throws by Dowell. That didn't last long as Culpepper, who hit seven 3s in UTEP's 71-49 first-round win over SMU, hit his first 3 of the game that put the Miners back up 49-47 with 12:10 left.

The Miners took control early despite missing their first six shots when Kilgore got hot. He scored eight of 11 straight points as UTEP took a 38-29 lead, and a Jackson jumper left the Miners up 42-35 at halftime.



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