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UTEP drops first game of the season to Wake Forest in a shootout

Gaby Velasquez

In their first game of the Gildan Charleston Classic, UTEP and Wake Forest went head to head for the third time in the history of college basketball. 

On Nov. 17, Wake Forest scored the most points in their young season, and added their third win of the season by defeating the Miners 103-81. Now, WFU advances to play the defending champions, the nationally third-ranked Villanova Wildcats on Nov. 18 at 11:30 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. 

UTEP suffered their first blemish of the season in the astonishing defeat, and will need to go back to the drawing board. The Miners are 1-1, and will face the Western Michigan Broncos on Friday, Nov. 18, at 1:30 p.m. MST. 

In the first period, the Miners could not catch a break from long-range—WFU drilled 13 3-balls, which buried UTEP early in the game. The Miners only attempted seven tries from downtown and connected on three of them.

The 3-point arc is the great equalizer, and can be a deciding factor for many teams—UTEP was outscored from that range 39-9 in the first half. A 30-point deficit is nearly impossible to overcome.

Head coach of the Miners’ program, Tim Floyd, found himself in a hole, trailing 63-44 at halftime. The 63 points scored against UTEP tied the school’s fifth-most points allowed in the first half.

Senior point guard Dominic Artis was the only athlete in orange and blue in double-figures; he had 14 points and went 5-for-7 from the field in the first 20 minutes of action. On the other side, WFU had their fair share of scoring options, as three of their Deacons captured more than 10 points in the first half.

Turnovers were still an issue as UTEP’s offense threw the ball away 10 times and gave up 16 points from turnovers. The Miners have now coughed up the ball in the first half 10 or more times in all of their four games, including the exhibition contests.

Throughout the game, the Miners gave the ball away 18 times, and let the Deacons score 24 easy points.

During the second half came, UTEP tried to dig themselves out of their grave, as they kept the scoring respectable in the last 20 minutes, only losing the half, 40-37. But WFU’s dominant margin was not going anywhere.

Head coach of the Demon Deacons controlled every aspect of the game, and led for 39:09 minutes of the game. The only reality for the Miners was their play down low; their unit managed to squeak out their only win of the game, 32-30 in the paint.

Coming into the matchup, UTEP lived up to their scouting report by having no trouble with putting up points, along with their defense still lacking consistency from putting up stops defensively.

WFU shot 59.3 percent from the field and 62 percent from the the 3-point line. When the Deacons were not letting it go from outside, they forced their way to the free throw line on 25 instances, nailing 20 of them (80 percent). UTEP went 14-19 (74 percent) at the charity strike.

Bryant Crawford, John Collins, Keyshawn Woods and Dinos Mitoglou of the Deacons combined for 78 points and nearly outscored the Miners with their top four scorers.

To put the rebounding margin in perspective, UTEP’s leading rebounder for the majority of the afternoon was forward Terry Winn with his four boards. He only played 15 minutes and was limited in the aggressive part of the game due to his foul trouble all game. When the game was far out of reach, Paul Thomas ended the battle with five rebounds. UTEP got outworked on the glass, 33-24. WFU managed 11 offensive rebounds, 14 second-chance buckets.

Matt Willms started his first game in over a year, but did most of his damage in the first half. Willms still threw in 13 points and five swatted shots in 20 minutes.

His relief, Kelvin Jones, was also prohibited from being used by Floyd because his number was being called for fouls most of his time on the court. Jones only managed 12 minutes of play and the Miners’ strength—their big men—was bottled. Due to the calls on the floor, Floyd had no other option but to play smaller at times.

The bright spots for UTEP’s basketball program were shadowed, but still present. Artis was swift against a talented guard in Crawford. UTEP’s floor general Artis kept his scoring touch alive and led the charge with 24 points for his team, he added six assists and was the most aggressive Miner, going 5-for-8 at the strike.

UTEP’s defensive flaws were tuned up during the break, after WFU hit 13 3s in the first half, they went cold and could not hit from beyond the arc in the second period. That might have something to do with the huge lead WFU was enjoying, but Floyd’s team got out to the line quicker and with more emphasis.

Next up for the Miners, who are now battle tested, they will still stay in Charleston, South Carolina, to battle Western Michigan. WMU lost to the talented Villanova squad, 76-65. UTEP will have another chance to get better, and work on their mistakes before things get too late.

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Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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UTEP drops first game of the season to Wake Forest in a shootout