Late comeback not enough to lift Miners over Bulldogs

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Late comeback not enough to lift Miners over Bulldogs

Nina Titovets

Nina Titovets

Nina Titovets

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The Miners posted a 7-0 run in the last 3:35, they inched back from a deficit of 11 and they had three opportunities to tie the game or go-ahead in the final minute; but, it was not enough as they fell in the final seconds to LA Tech, 62-61.

With the final seconds on the clock winding down, guard Dominic Artis launched a jumper to potentially win the game, but to the Miners’ demise, the ball bounced off the rim and the clock expired.

The Miners (8-15, 6-5 C-USA) fell to the second place LA Tech Bulldogs (17-8, 9-3 C-USA) and it was their first loss at home against a C-USA opponent. Now the Miners are 5-1 in league play.

“This showed us how fragile every game is,” head coach Tim Floyd said. “We talked about things we did well and I think we did them tonight—block out their rebounds. We did some good things. But they had a really good five-minute stretch.”

The Miners opened the game in a stellar fashion and led for 23:24 minutes. They shot an exceptional 45.5 percent from the floor and held the Bulldogs to a 30.4 percent shooting percentage. At the half, the Miners led 30-22.

However, it was the second half when the Bulldogs started to take over. LA Tech marched out of halftime with a 20-5 run and took its first lead of the game.

“We had a bad four or five minutes in the second half,” Floyd said. “[Erik] McCree is such a great player and made us pay with some threes.”

Indeed, McCree took over for the Bulldogs in the second half. He was 4-of-4 from 3-point range and shot an exceptional 60 percent from the floor on the night. He finished the night with 19 points and eight boards.

“That stretch in the beginning of the half really hurt us,” forward Paul Thomas said. “That’s what changed it. They got hot on the three line, we missed some boards and I went out with too many fouls.”

Thomas had a promising start, but as he mentioned, he was pulled from the game for his four fouls midway in the second half. Thomas assisted the Miners on both ends, came up with some nice rebounds and put up strong points for the group. He finished the night with a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.

Along with Thomas, the Miners had three other individuals who were in double digits for scoring. Omega Harris led the charge with 14 points, followed by Willms with 13 and Artis with 12.

“I thought we did a great job defensively,” Floyd said. “Thomas was great on the glass all around. Matt did well offensively in the first half. We just had too many turnovers in key situations.”

Down the stretch, the Miners missed some key free throws and had a crucial turnover in the final minute. In a possession that could have given UTEP the go-ahead lead, the Miners threw the ball out of bounds and gave LA Tech the ball back.

“Big turnover with 44 seconds left,” Floyd said. “It should’ve gone to the post. We should’ve ate the ball and called a timeout, but that was a big turnover there.”

Then came up Artis’ near make to win the game after the Miners regained possession with 17 seconds left in the game. It just was not enough to get it done.

“Really nice look, but that’s just how the second half went for us,” Willms said. “We let ourselves get too far behind. That should’ve been a win for us and we kept fighting back, but we can’t rely on that. Here it bit us in the end.”

The difference of the game, according to Floyd, was three-point percentages. The Miners were out-shot 46.7 percent to 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.

“We had an opportunity to win. They’re a good basketball team and we can live with their field goal percentage,” Floyd said. “But the three’s were the difference of the game. We didn’t find it and locate.”

Willms, on the other hand, is not dwelling on this loss, but focusing on Southern Miss on Saturday.

“That’s [LA Tech] a really good team in our conference so even losing by one… now we just have to focus on Southern Miss,” Willms said. “We know we can play with these big teams so we need to stay ahead.”

Tip off against the Golden Eagles is slated for 6:00 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center.

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