Miners bury Golden Eagles for first C-USA home-sweep of the season


Gaby Velasquez

Senior guard Omega Harris hugs his teammates, after receiving a standing ovation from the home crowd.

Adrian Broaddus, Copy Editor

The Miners continued their hot streak from Thursday’s win with a monstrous 73-44 win over Southern Mississippi on Saturday to conclude their home schedule for the year.

The Golden Eagles shot an abysmal 30 percent from the floor (16-of-54) and 11 percent from the 3-point arc (2-of-19), as the Miners shot 46 percent throughout the night.

The Miners (10-18, 5-11 C-USA) are now in the driver’s seat for the C-USA Tournament with the win, with a plus-one advantage over Rice, who is the No. 13 team in the conference. With the win, the Miners also avoided what could have been their first season since 2002-03 without a winning record at home.

“Proud of our guys tonight,” interim head coach Phil Johnson said. “We talked after Old Dominion and agreed to put everything behind us.”

UTEP bid farewell to three seniors on Saturday evening, with guard Omega Harris, forward Jake Flaggert and center Matt Willms finishing their careers at home for UTEP. Guard Keith Frazier, who is also a senior, was not in attendance for the Miners for undisclosed reasons.

“I don’t know where Keith is,” Johnson said. “He said he had to leave for a family emergency. We had his jersey ready but I don’t know where he is and I’m worried. He texted (a coach), so maybe that’s a good sign. Kinda been a rough year for him.”

To start the game, the Miners hit the board of an electric alley-oop dunk by Willms. The Miners were looking sharp on defense, holding the Golden Eagles to being scoreless through the first four minutes, shooting 0-of-6 from the floor to start.

The Miners, on the other hand, shot 44 percent (4-of-9) to start the first six minutes, and then both teams went through a scoreless period halfway into the first half.

To end the half, the Miners held Southern Miss scoreless in the last five minutes, 0-of-8 from the floor, and went on an 11-3 run to lead at the half, 38-15.

Southern Miss struggled shooting in the first half, recording a low 16 percent from the floor (5-of-31) and just 7 percent from 3-point range (1-of-14).

Leading the way for the Miners at the end of the first half was freshman guard Evan Gilyard, who recorded 14 points for the Miners, followed by Isiah Osborne with eight and Harris with seven.

Although Southern Miss shot a little better from the floor in the second half, shooting 48 percent, it still didn’t help score enough points for any shot at a big comeback.

The Miners’ offense was led by Gilyard, who ended the night with 22 points and two steals. Following Gilyard was Harris, who electrified on his senior night with 18 points. Osborne had 15 points and Willms chipped in with eight.

“Wonderful game to come on top,” Harris said. “Thankful to El Paso and the city throughout my time here.”

Leading the way for the Golden Eagles was guard Tyree Griffin, who finished with 20 points.

Next up, the Miners will travel on the road to take on Rice on March 1 and North Texas on March 3.

“I’m hopeful (playing on the road),” Johnson said. “I think getting over our hump at Charlotte on the road was good. I believe guys feel good about themselves. I’ll be surprised if we don’t play good on the road.”