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Bison outlasts Miners 63-51 to snatch Sun Bowl Invitational title

Omega+Harris+defended+tightly+by+the+Bison+defense.+
Gaby Velasquez
Omega Harris defended tightly by the Bison defense.

In a back-and-forth battle throughout the game, the Miners went on a dry spell late, shooting just 1-of-12 from the floor as the North Dakota State Bison closed the game on an 19-2 run to win the championship of the 2017 WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.

This marks UTEP’s third straight year of not winning their own tournament, which they haven’t won since 2014.

UTEP was depleted, playing the tournament without the likes of Matt Willms, who is battling a wrist injury, Trey Wade, who is back home after the death of his grandmother, and Isaiah Osborne, who played limited minutes due to strep throat he was battling earlier this week. Not to mention forward Tirus Smith and Paul Thomas entered foul trouble early, causing the group to play small the majority of the game.

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The Miners did not shoot well, only knocking in 19-of-57, 33 percent of their shots from the floor and 7-of-28, 25 percent from 3-point range.

It was a back-and-forth battle from the get-go with eight lead changes and three minutes of tied basketball throughout the game.

But the difference of the game, in fact, was the fact that the Miners were out-rebounded 50-30 in the game, and 27-12 in the second half.

“50-30 on the glass—you can’t win like that,” said interim head coach Phil Johnson. “We just got crushed. I thought we defended well, just couldn’t crash on the glass. That’s brutal. These guys (NDSU) are good.”

UTEP started off strong, holding NDSU to just 25 percent shooting from the floor (6-of-24) and 10 percent from 3-point range (1-of-10). They gave different defensive looks, switching from a man-to-man look and a 1-3-1 defensive package, which really stumped the Bison early on.

Thomas led the way for the Miners at the half, totaling 10 points and five rebounds. He lifted the Miners to a 25-21 lead at the half.

Then the half came and the Miners could not catch a break late in the second half. The NDSU offense adjusted, which really gave a total different look to the Miners.

“They kind of abandoned their offense they had been doing the entire game and just started driving in head-on to the basket and drawing fouls,” Johnson said.

The Bison went from shooting just 25 percent in the first half to shooting 46 percent from the floor in the second half. Moreover, they improved from shooting 1-of-10 from 3-point range to shooting 5-of-10 in the second half.

“It’s hard to guard—did an excellent job doing man-to-man defense for about 37 minutes,” Johnson said. “Later on, our issue wasn’t guarding, but rebounding.”

With the game still in reach, Smith fouled out of the game, leaving the Miners small down low.

“Tirus picked up fouls pretty quick,” Johnson said. “He played 17 minutes and was in foul trouble most of the night.”

The Bison (7-6) were led by Paul Miller’s 19 points, 11 coming from the charity stripe. A.J. Jacobson and Tyson Ward chipped in with 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively. NDSU held the Miners to shooting just 30 percent (9-of-30) from the floor and 18.8 percent (3-of-16) from 3-point range in the second half.

“I give them credit,” Johnson said. “We didn’t shoot with a lot of confidence. A game where not much was working.”

The Miners (5-7) will now have almost a week to prepare for conference play as they host North Texas on Thursday, Dec. 28, in the Don Haskins Center at 7 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor
Adrian Broaddus is the sports editor for The Prospector. He is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in political science.   Adrian was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and is a graduate of Franklin high school. He entered college in the fall of 2015 in hopes to better his career in journalism.   Along with sports, Adrian enjoys writing music reviews, perspective columns and news stories on politics.   Although he is pursuing his degree in journalism, Adrian would like to go to law school and be an attorney while doing part-time work in journalism.  
Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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Bison outlasts Miners 63-51 to snatch Sun Bowl Invitational title