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UTEP basketball loses seventh in a row

Gaby Velasquez


The UTEP men’s basketball winning drought continues following a 71-66 loss to Maryland Eastern Shore. The Miners are currently on a seven-game losing streak. The team is currently competing in the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, the nation’s oldest collegiate holiday basketball tournament.

Off to a surprisingly bad start, UTEP fell to 2-8 on the year after their sluggish offensive night against UMES (2-11). The Hawks were dealing with mismatches all over the court, since they were outsized at every position. But they did not back down to the Miners towering height, in fact, UMES looked like the aggressor on the hardwood all night. UTEP had the luxury of two nearly seven-footers and three 6-foot-8 players, while UMES’ tallest athlete was 6-foot-8.

UMES came into the Miners’ building and snatched their first win against a Division 1 opponent and also their first win on the road this season. Head coach of the Miners Tim Floyd fell to 10-3 in the tournament’s history.

During the first half of play, the Hawks led on the scoreboard for 14:30 out of the 20 minutes in the period, behind Bakari Johnson’s 17 first half points. Johnson connected on three 3-point buckets. However, as a team, the Miners contained the three-ball at an impressive rate, forcing the trigger-happy Hawks to shoot 4-17 from beyond the arc.

At halftime, the score was in favor of the away team, 32-29.

Floyd’s group was their own worst enemy in the first twenty minutes of play—his squad gave up the ball a total of eight times, and did not take away the rock as effectively from UMES on the defensive end. The Hawks totaled just one turnover – and that was a charging foul.

Senior guard Dominic Artis and junior center Matt Willms kept the contest respectable despite their team’s lousy showing in the opening half. Artis continued his stat-stuffing ways with his nine points, eight rebounds and two assists. Willms was the only Miner is double-figure points with 10, and he also added five rebounds.

When the teams were set to take the floor again after the break, UMES jumped out to their biggest lead of the night 45-36.  The contest was leaning towards the Hawks’ once Willms picked up his fourth foul and his reoccurring nose injury crept up once again.

“I was worried when he (Willms) went down again tonight,” Floyd said. “He (Willms) is a really nice talent when he’s healthy, and I feel that our fans have not got to see that yet. He has been dealing with injuries his entire career. He is in horrible, horrible condition right now and then he is still in pain and he is trying to to play through it.”

After having gone scoreless in the first half, sophomore forward Paul Thomas stepped up for the home team. He went on a rampage and scored 11 points to give the Miners their first lead since the opening minutes of the game with nine minutes left remaining. His hard play and comeback campaign were applauded by the many Miner supporters in the stands, when he was asked to take a rest.

From there on the game was back-and-forth. There were 18 lead changes and nine ties throughout the second half. Three players on the Miners’ roster each fouled out in crunch time (Willms, junior forward Jake Flaggert, Thomas), which made the comeback bid tougher than it already was.

“Foul trouble really bothered us tonight.” Floyd said. “We don’t have a lot of depth inside, so foul trouble forced us to play with (freshman center Kelvin Jones) and four little guards at the end. We were short-handed down the stretch.”

Floyd’s unit had all their focus on the Hawks’ leading-scorer coming into the contest, Ryan Andino, as they ran their defenses revolving around Andino. Due to UTEP’s focus on him, the Miners allowed Copeland to continue his spectacular scoring night with his 27 points. And another Hawk joined in on the fun—Dontae Caldwell, who chipped in with 13 big points.

“We got beat by that Copeland kid. He did a really good job. However, we did a pretty good job on Andino,” Floyd said. “We don’t have an interior defensive stopper right now and Copeland just made basket after basket.”

On the other side of the ball, the Miners tried to answer their problems offensively with the three-point shot—a distance they have struggled from. Against UMES’ defense, which has allowed 80 points per game and a percentage of 48.6 from the field to their opponents, UTEP went 3-17 (18 percent) from beyond the arc.

“Tonight, on the perimeter, we struggled. We had open look after open look and we had a couple of wide open shots at the end of the ball game that just didn’t go down. When we drove it, we couldn’t finish either,” Floyd said. “When you are struggling as a team, it seems like it is due to something different every night. Tonight was the lack of making shots. Our three-point field goal percentage was not good at all.”

With the size advantage in favor of UTEP; they tallied up 36 points in the paint, compared to the Hawks’ 18 from inside the lane. The Miners relied on the three-ball heavily and went away from playing inside during crunch time. Floyd’s big men did their part on the boards, however. UTEP won the rebounding battle 44-31.

Junior guard Omega Harris and Artis, UTEP’s top scoring options, went cold in the second half, when their team needed them most. Combined they had a total of nine points in the last twenty minutes of the ball game, along with only two assists from the two. The Miner’s bench only produced nine points – a problem that has plagued the team all season.

“Omega and DA (Artis) are playing too many minutes right now, but that is who we are.” Floyd said.

UTEP will have a chance to redeem themselves, on Dec. 22, when they will face UC Irvine at 5pm for the consolation prize. The Miners will have to wait another year to regain the crown in the tournament.

“We have to regroup and play again tomorrow. We are making progress and we did in some areas tonight,” Floyd said. “I’m ready to come back and go fight tomorrow. We got a little better last game, and we will try and get better the next one against UC Irvine. I can’t wait.”

















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Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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  • B

    Ben from White SandsDec 22, 2016 at 8:25 AM

    “Off to a surprisingly bad start”???? Surprising to who, all the deluded Floyd backers? lol this stuff is now officially comical – utep should change their jerseys to that generals team that plays the globetrotters – bottom line – utep basketball is a circus for our enjoyment and Floyd is the buffoon ring leader – come one come all boys and girls this ain’t the team of your grandads or dads

  • A

    Andrew MendozaDec 22, 2016 at 2:24 AM

    How many more losses before Tim Floyd is no longer the UTEP head coach?

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UTEP basketball loses seventh in a row