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Miners secure second-straight victory against FAU in overtime

Gaby Velasquez

For the first time in over 20 years, UTEP men’s basketball has competed in back-to-back overtime contests and the Miners have come out the winners in both extended games. The squad was coming off a thrilling double-overtime victory against Florida International and UTEP carried that momentum into their matchup against Florida Atlantic. They overcame the Owls 66-65 on Jan. 14 at the Don Haskins Center.


In a game that saw the Miners lead for just under 39 minutes, compared to only one minute from the opposing Owls, FAU took the Miners to their limit in front of their home crowd. It was anyone’s game for the whole 45-minute matchup.


UTEP’s starting guard Dominic Artis, who owns the unit’s second-leading scoring margin (15.3 points per game) and leads the team in passing (6.8 assist per contest), struggled all evening long against a stingy FAU defense that made Artis their main point of emphasis. He put up 11 points on 3-12 from the hardwood and only dished out one assist. It was a night that the Miners were not used to out of Artis as he is usually the engine for the Miners.


But despite one of the Miners’ top threats going cold all game, UTEP stepped up in his struggle. The other starting guard for the Miners Omega Harris had a team-high in points (18) and assists (4). He hit big shot after big shot when his offense could not buy a bucket in a poor shooting night for both teams. UTEP’s 7-footer Matt Willms added in 16 points for the group and was the Miners’ go-to player at the end of regulation.


The biggest surprise on the night however, was starting forward Paul Thomas who threw in 14 points of his own and rebounded a team-high of eight boards. In total, the three athletes combined for 48 much-needed points since their leader was not up to par. Head coach of UTEP Tim Floyd was very pleased with what Thomas has been bringing to the table lately.


“Paul has grown a lot in the last 3-to-4 games. We expected him to redshirt this year, but with Terry Winn departing earlier in the year, he (Thomas) has been playing extended minutes this year and has produced nicely for our team, lately. Paul has been getting better every single night.” Floyd said.


During the first half of play, Floyd’s team took care of the ball better than they have all year, as they only turned it over a total of two times in the first twenty minutes. This limited FAU’s chances of running out on the break and getting easy buckets as teams have been used to against the Miners all of this season.


The halftime score had the Miners on top, 26-23, after a poor shooting half from both teams. UTEP shot 40 percent and the Owls shot 33.3 percent, along with only 20 percent from downtown.


However, when the second half was set to be played, the Miners gave up the ball seven times to total nine in the contest. And to make matters worse, UTEP’s bench could not be relied on throughout the game. The bench players for the Miners only added in four points, while the Owls’ reserves scored 28 points and gave them an extra lift from their bench. This helped the Owls keep in reaching distance of the lead, and eventually led to FAU threatening to steal one from UTEP.


Within the final eight seconds of the game, FAU was looking up to the Miners’ lead of 55-52, and had one last hope of sending the contest into extra time despite the Owls’ poor play in the game. The only FAU player to hit a 3-pointer on the night, Gerdarius Troutman, was good for his sixth long range shot of the matchup—this time to send the game to overtime with three seconds remaining. All the momentum seemed to be in favor of the Owls when overtime was needed.


“We went small on the game tying three-pointer because they (FAU) had gone out there with five guards. We took out Willms and it hurt us,” Floyd said. “But I’m proud of this team for fighting back and winning this game.”


Nevertheless, the Miners grabbed the lead early in the overtime period from a Harris jumper and a Thomas lay in. The Miners never looked back in the extended five minutes of the ball game. UTEP attempted ten out of their 24 free throw attempts in overtime. Out of those ten charity strike attempts, UTEP drained seven of them and received some clutch offensive rebounds from Willms.


One plus the Miners could hold their heads high about is their defense, and their ability to guard the three-ball effectively now, according to Floyd. As a team, FAU was held to 21.4 percent shooting (6-28) on the three-point ball—the only trouble the Miners had was defending Troutman.


“The purpose of defending the three-point line has been crucial for us these past couple of games. It has improved dramatically since the Sun Carnival tournament.” Floyd said.


Now on the Miners’ first consecutive wins, they will welcome in UTSA, on Jan. 21, for a rematch against the Roadrunners.


“Our team needed this weekend. The team we beat tonight (FAU) beat Ohio State earlier in the week,” Floyd said. “We have a team coming in next Saturday that beat us earlier this year. It’ll be a good measuring stick for our team. I hope we come out inspired after these two wins. A lot of growth can still be achieved this year.”

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Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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Miners secure second-straight victory against FAU in overtime