UTEP edges out Charlotte to snap its three game losing streak

Daniel Mendez, Web Editor

The UTEP men’s basketball team snapped its three-game losing streak edging out the Charlotte 49ers, 53-51, Saturday night at the Don Haskins Center.

UTEP improved to 7-12 on the season and earned its second win in Conference USA. Meanwhile, Charlotte fell to 5-15 and lost is seventh game in C-USA.

“Our coach always says we can only live with a win or a loss for one night and then we get to move on regardless we win or lose,” said senior forward Paul Thomas.

At the end of the first half UTEP lead Charlotte, 23-19, the Miners defense held C-USA second-leading scorer senior guard Jon Davis to just four points, he is averaging 20 points per game.

The Miners defense came out as the aggressor forcing a 13-3 run that lasted 8:16 of the first half, during that time frame the Miners defense forced a shot clock violation, multiple charges that led to five turnovers for Charlotte who shot  2-of-10 from the field.

Every Miner that played in the first half scored at least one field goal.

Senior Paul Thomas nailed his first two field goals for five points to get the Miners on the board early in the first half. Thomas would finish the game scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds in his first game starting after coming off the bench in the last two games.

“In my mind, he’s player of the game,” said first-year head coach Rodney Terry. “I thought Paul came out with a great approach to the game, he set the tone early not with his quick five points but with his ability to defend.”

Hawkins and Gilyard struggled in the first half each scoring three points. Both would explode in the second half as Gilyard finished with a team-high of 13 points, and Hawkins added 12 points. Hawkins would finish with a team-high eight rebounds.

In the second half, UTEP and Charlotte would exchange the lead back and forth for a total of nine lead changes and a total of seven times the score was tied.

In the second half, Davis tied the game up at 43 for Charlotte. Thomas answered back by getting an and-1 on the following offensive possession. Charlotte’s freshman guard Brandon Younger cut the Miners lead to one with three minutes left. Thomas answered back by following his shot that missed when he grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to push the Miners lead back to three with two minutes left in regulation. Back-to-back offensive charges for the 49ers forced UTEP to shoot free throws, Miners were in the double bonus. Those free throws made by the Miners extended the lead to five with 1:46 left. Davis got fouled on the next play and scored one of two from the line. Gilyard answered back by driving to the cup and getting the layup.

With 36 seconds left in regulation, UTEP was up three the Miners turned it over after freshman guard Jordan Lathon was called for five seconds. Charlotte would score out of the timeout to cut the Miners lead to one with 32 seconds left. Gilyard would get fouled and get sent to the line shooting two, where he missed the first and nailed the second free throw. Davis got fouled on the following possession and made one of two free throws. Lathon would extend the lead to two after going 1-of-2 from the free throw line.

Lathon then turned the ball over trying to inbound the ball with 10 seconds left. After Charlotte inbounded the ball Davis attacked the baseline and attempted a layup when Lathon met him in the air and blocked Davis shot with four seconds left. Gilyard would make two free throws to seal the game for the Miners.

“That’s J2, he has that mentality of next play,” said Nigel Hawkins on Lathon’s late-game block. “He’s going to try and make the right play every time, defensively that was a big play for us.”

Coach Terry on Lathon’s mistake inbounding the ball and his defensive play on Davis, “young guys, we hadn’t really been in that position all year, Terry said.

“He did a great job defending one of the best guards in our league, up into that point he really had his way of scoring the basketball. He stood his ground defending a senior guard.”

Davis scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half to keep the 49ers in the game

UTEP outrebounded Charlotte by 10, 38-28, and would force 14 turnovers and have 13 points off turnovers. UTEP shot 16-44 from the field for 36 percent while Charlotte shot 20-52 from the field for 39 percent.

“It’s a big step forward, hopefully, this win will start a streak for us,” Thomas said. “If we can get a road win this upcoming week we’ll be right where we need to be in conference.”