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Miners survive, win Sun Bowl Invitational

Andres Martinez
Junior guard Earvin Morris was one of five Miners that scored in double figures

Five different Miners scored in double digits as UTEP held off Kent State University to claim their third straight Sun Bowl Invitational tournament title by a final score of 78-75. After the easy win last night against Alcorn State the Miners needed every single point to get their eighth win of the season tonight in front of around 6,000 at the Don Haskins Center.

“Well we survived against another team that I think will be in the NCAA tournament,” said Miner head coach Tim Floyd. “They’ve been the best program in the MAC over the past 12 years.”

It was a close first half of small runs by both teams. When one team seemed to get a run going the other answered with one of their own that resulted in seven lead changes. Tied at 13 with just under 15 minutes to play the miners went on a 7-2 run to take a five point lead, before you knew it Kent State answered with a 9-2 run that would put them back in the lead.

“It was a tough matchup,” said sophomore Vince Hunter. “They were solid on defense and solid on the offensive side.”

Going into the final 10 minutes of the half the Miners, down by four, scored 12 unanswered and it looked like they could finally get some separation. But the visiting Golden Flashes once again answered with a run of their own cutting the Miner lead down to two with just under four minutes to play in the half. UTEP finished the half 7-2 run giving them 44-37 advantage going into the second half.

The 44 points scored by the Miners in the first half were the most this season in the first 20 minutes of a game.

“We moved the ball, we shared the ball, we played inside out,” Floyd said.

In the second half UTEP seemed in complete control of the game enjoying its largest lead of the night at 65-52 with just under seven minutes to play. But once again the Golden Flashes made one last run that would put the result in serious jeopardy for Floyd’s squad.

Kent State scored 21 points and held the Miners to just 11 as they cut down UTEP’s lead to just two with 15 seconds remaining in the game. After sinking two free throws the Golden Flashes were within one point with six seconds left until the final buzzer. Forced to foul, they put Omega Harris on the line and the freshman scored both to give UTEP the win.

“We didn’t finish well tonight,” Floyd said. “We missed four free throws and a dunk in the final two minutes.”

This is the final game of the Miners’ pre-conference schedule. After a short break they will host Sul Ross State in an exhibition game and prepare to kick off conference play against North Texas on January 2 at North Texas.

“We’re really proud of the win, we think Kent State is a really good basketball team,” Floyd said. “We’ve got to get a little better in some areas, we’ll do that after the break.”

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected].

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Miners survive, win Sun Bowl Invitational