Konner Tucker scored 18 points to lead four UTEP starters in double figures, and the Miners moved to 2-0 in Conference USA play for the first time in five years with a 74-63 win over Marshall on Saturday at the Haskins Center.
The Miners (8-6, 2-0 C-USA) matched the 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 squads as the only UTEP teams to notch victories in their first two C-USA contests. UTEP has won seven of its last nine games overall following a 1-4 start.
A 7-0 burst at the end of the first half sent the Miners into the locker room with a 31-24 lead. They built a 20-point lead, their largest of the night, on a Cedrick Lang free throw with 8:51 remaining.
UTEP trailed 12-5 in the first five minutes. The Miners outscored the Herd 51-24 in a dominating next 26 minutes that culminated in the 56-36 lead.
Things got a little helter skelter after that, and UTEP coach Tim Floyd didn’t mask his displeasure in the postgame interview room.
“I thought we didn’t play as well as we did over at Tulane [on Wednesday],” he said. “I didn’t like us in a lot of areas tonight. We did outboard a team that is ranked nationally in rebounding, and I guess that’s really positive. But I thought we got a little sloppy with the ball. I thought we got caught up a little bit too much in talking out there on the floor. I thought we got caught up a little too much in styling out there on the floor tonight. We’ll get that corrected, and we’ll start getting better in practice on Monday morning.”
The game lasted well over two hours as UTEP (30) and Marshall (25) combined to shoot 55 free throws, including 46 in the second half.
“There was a whistle probably 15 straight trips down the floor,” Floyd said. “I think guys were caught up in things other than finishing the game. Those are things we’ve got a chance to work on and will work on in the next couple of days.”
Floyd was asked about what bothered him down the stretch, and came up with a long list.
“Fouling, poor passing, lack of focus with the lead, lack of willingness to play the next play after a basket to get back in transition, get into a stance and think about what we have to do next,” he said. “Lack of willingness to go rebound the ball late when we did it for the first 30 minutes. Because the game was over, you see? It was time to go do something else.”
Floyd did laud the team’s guard play, specifically from Tucker and Jacques Streeter, who recorded his 500th career assist.
“Both did a very good job with what they had to do on the floor in terms of getting us into play,” he said. “I thought Jacques was terrific in screen and roll. I thought he was terrific at getting us into play defensively at the 10-second line.”
Streeter finished with 14 points and seven assists. McKenzie Moore tallied 14 points, seven boards and three steals, and John Bohannon contributed 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The Miners outrebounded the Herd (8-9, 1-1 C-USA) 32-23 and held them to five offensive rebounds – a staggering number considering that they averaged a league-leading 16 per game coming in.
Floyd was also happy with the way the Miners ended the first half and started the second – just not with how they finished the game.
“The last three minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half were a stretch where we played good basketball,” he said.
Dennis Tinnon led Marshall with 19 points. DeAndre Kane and Elijah Pittman scored 11 each.
The Miners will continue a stretch of three games in five days on Monday when they host Houston Baptist at 7 p.m. Then they’ll jump back into C-USA play for a road game at Tulsa on Wednesday. UTEP will return to the Haskins Center for a date with SMU and Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown next Saturday (Jan. 19) at 2 p.m.