Miners Sky Over Southern Miss, 68-50
UTEP held Southern Miss to 35.7 percent shooting and forced 25 turnovers, overcoming cold shooting to rout the Golden Eagles, 68-50, on Wednesday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners (11-7, 3-1 C-USA) hit just 31.7 percent of their shots and were 22-for-34 (.647) from the line. But they did just about everything else well, including outrebounding Southern Miss 43-40. The Golden Eagles entered the game rated fourth nationally in rebound margin, and had enjoyed an advantage on the boards in 13 of their first 15 games.
Guards Malik Alvin, Darren Clarke, Kevin Henderson, Marvin Kilgore, Stefon Jackson and Corey Speight combined to pull down 26 rebounds.
"That's when you know you're starting to get it -- when you shoot 31 percent and win," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "We're guarding and rebounding. Not we need to get back to making five-footers and free throws, which cost us in our last game [at Tulsa]."
It was Speight - who entered the game averaging eight minutes in five games - who gave the Miners a lift early. He came off the bench and drained three three-pointers in the first half, including two during an 11-0 run that turned a 19-11 lead into a 30-11 bulge.
"The biggest thing I preach to everybody is to stay ready for your opportunity," Barbee said of Speight's performance.
Barbee also singled out the effort of freshman forward Dale Vanwright, who was 0-for-8 from the field but had six rebounds and three steals.
"He didn't make one shot, and I could care less," Barbee said. "He guarded and rebounded his butt off."
UTEP was ahead 36-23 at the half, and although the Golden Eagles (11-5, 1-2 C-USA) cut their deficit to eight points with 12:42 to go, they never seriously threatened the Miners after that.
UTEP took its biggest advantage of the night at 66-46 on a layup by Henderson with five minutes to go.
Jackson was the only player in double figures for the Miners, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 8-for-10 from the line for 22 points. It was his tenth 20-point game of the season.
Clarke, Henderson and Speight contributed nine points apiece.
Craig Craft led Southern Miss, which dropped to 1-3 on the road this season, with 13 points and Jeremy Wise added 10. Wise, C-USA's top scoring freshman at 15.9 points per game coming in, shot 3-for-12 from the field. He also had eight turnovers.
UTEP scored 28 points off Golden Eagle giveaways, successfully dictating the pace of the game.
"One of the things we wanted to do was to not let them walk it up the floor and play methodical," Barbee said.
The Miners will play back-to-back road games at SMU (Saturday) and Rice (Wednesday). The SMU game will be televised in El Paso on Time Warner Cable MetroSports Southwest Channel 24 beginning at 6 p.m. MST. The Mustangs are 11-6 overall and 0-3 in C-USA following Wednesday's 64-56 setback at UCF.
"To win the conference, you've got to win all of your games at home," Barbee said. "Now we've got to go on the road and try to steal one or two."