El Paso, TX — Matt Willms and El Paso native Tevin Caldwell both scored four points during a 16-0 run late in the second half, as UTEP pulled away late for a 91-63 exhibition rout of Southeastern Oklahoma State on Saturday at the Haskins Center.
UTEP led 61-52 with less than nine minutes to play. About five minutes later the margin was 25 (77-52), and the Miners went ahead by as many as 31 points in the final minutes.
Caldwell was a big part of UTEP’s second half resurgence.
“I thought he really helped us,” Floyd said. “He had five assists in eight minutes [all in the second half]. I thought his defensive pressure was great. He led us out to some easy run outs, easy transition dunks and easy transition threes.”
The Miners scored 34 points off 22 turnovers by the Storm, including 23 after halftime. UTEP was exceptional in transition, with big men Willms and Vince Hunter repeatedly beating defenders down the floor for dunks.
“Powering it out, getting the ball up the floor in transition and conversion was a good thing for us,” Floyd said. “We’re trying to play fast. We’re trying to get it up and down the floor. We feel like we’ve got the athletes to do it, and some nights you do it a little better than others depending on how the other team gets back.”
Willms battled foul trouble in the first half but finished with eight points over the final 20 minutes. Hunter was one of five Miners in double figures with 15 points and added eight rebounds. John Bohannon had a near double-double (16 points/nine boards), while Jalen Ragland chipped in with 15 points.
“I think you all saw signs of why Vince Hunter was the 21st-ranked player in the country a year ago,” Floyd said. “He’s a special athlete, and he’s got a special nose for the ball on the boards. Hopefully he learned a lesson today that big guys who rebound score.”
Ragland hitting 4-of-8 shots, 3-of-5 three pointers and all four of his free throws was also a welcome sight.
“We’ve watched him make every shot in practice and it’s nice to see him have a 50 percent night [from the field],” Floyd said.
The Miners were playing without McKenzie Moore, who returned to practice from an ankle injury on Thursday only to injure his other ankle, and Cedrick Lang, who has a concussion and stayed at home with migraines.
UTEP shot 50.8 percent from the field and outrebounded the Storm 40-35. The Miners nearly doubled up Southeastern Oklahoma State in the paint, outscoring them 48-26.
“There are a lot of things we can get better at,” Floyd said. “There were too many post touches. We fronted the post some, they threw it over the top of us without great backside help during stretches. We didn’t execute for a stretch out of our primary offense or motion offense.”
Still, it was a start with the season opener looming in one week (Nov. 9) versus Loyola-New Orleans. And Floyd sounded optimistic about his team’s chances in 2013-14.
“We’re not dead yet,” he said. “We lost a couple of guys during the summer and everybody was starting to pour the dirt on us and figured we were buried. But we’re going to be OK.”