Men’s basketball hammered by South Carolina 80-56

Head+coach+Tim+Floyd+and+the+men%27s+basketball+team+struggled+in+their+second+game+of+the+Puerto+Rico+Tip-off+in+Myrtle+Beach%2C+SC.

Brian Jones

Head coach Tim Floyd and the men's basketball team struggled in their second game of the Puerto Rico Tip-off in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Jason Green, Contributor

Perhaps the travel caught up to the Miners men’s basketball team on Friday or maybe it was the 8:30 a.m. mountain time zone start. Regardless, UTEP started slow and finished slower in a 80-56 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Friday morning.

The first losers bracket game of the Puerto Rico Tip-off at Myrtle Beach began at 10:30 a.m. eastern time and the Miners looked as if they wanted to be in bed still. The game was already 7-2 Gamecocks at the first media timeout after the virtual home team – who lost to the outstanding defensive squad from Illinois State on Thursday 69-65 – went three-for-three to open the game.

In the first four minutes, UTEP attempted to throw an alley-oop to senior center Matt Willms three different times and turned the ball over all three times. This led to a 14-8 Carolina lead at the second TV timeout and would start a trend of UTEP turnovers. In the first half, the Miners turned the ball over 16 times.

“We wanted to approach it with multiple drive and kicks in the first half and it became either a turnover – which we had 16 in the first half – or it became a quick launch bad shot,” said head coach Tim Floyd, following the team’s second loss in a row.

To make matters worse, the Gamecocks shot 54.8 percent from the field in the first half to the Miners’ 42.9 percent. The real discrepancy may have been in shots made, however. Seventeen for Carolina and nine for UTEP leading to a 50-24 halftime deficit for Floyd’s team.

Floyd summed the game up succinctly at the end of his press conference opening statement.

“They were just clearly a better basketball team than we were,” he said to the gathered press from around the country.

Graduate guard Keith Frazier was injured just prior to halftime with what looked like an ankle injury. The former McDonald’s High School All-American landed on South Carolina head coach Frank Martin’s foot after a jump shot near the sideline and crumpled to the floor.

“I know Frank (Martin) feels bad. He stepped on Frank’s foot,” Floyd said. “I know Frank didn’t do it on purpose. Lord knows I’m out there on the floor a hell of a lot more than Frank. But, it was just one of those things that happened in a ball game and I’m sure he’ll be ok and it certainly didn’t have anything to do with us losing the ballgame.”

Although he came out to warm-up with the Miners following the intermission, Frazier never went back in the game. Without Thursday’s leading scorer, UTEP never mounted any substantial comeback effort.

The Miners were led by Willms’ 18 points, although the big man was held to six rebounds by a persistent USC team. Floyd attributed the dominance on the boards to size of the Gamecocks at all positions.

“They’re 6’11”, 260… 6’10”, 255… great athletes, seven foot, seven three, 6’5” on the wings,” he said with his post-game anger turning to a rye smile. “They go back with strength, athleticism, size and they look the part.”

The Miners were thoroughly trounced in most aspects of Friday’s game and the day off on Saturday may be a welcome break for Floyd and company.

Floyd eschewed the idea of letting his players enjoy a Saturday completely off in Myrtle Beach, though.

“We need to practice. I don’t think I could rest real good without a practice,” Floyd said with a chuckle. “(The players) might be able to, but I’m more worried about me right now than I am them.”

Floyd then turned to Willms to tease him about the “day off.”

“Why don’t y’all go get you some boogie boards and just really enjoy this loss, ok? Enjoy the beach,” he said to Willms with a smile.

He did take a break from the sarcasm to say that the team would do something fun to enjoy the time off – between practices.

Floyd’s team will have some time off on Saturday before playing in the 7th/8th place game on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. MT against the loser of the Appalachian State/Western Michigan game to be played later on Friday.