El Paso, Texas (KDBC) — Matt Derenbecker hit the go-ahead jumper with 5:15 remaining, and added six more points down the stretch as New Orleans stunned UTEP, 71-69, on Monday night at the Don Haskins Center.
The Privateers (3-4) posted their first road win since February of 2012 over the Miners (5-5), who were playing without their leading scorer (McKenzie Moore) and top reserve (Justin Crosgile).
“It’s a frustrating loss,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We played against a team that played very spirited. I thought they played better than we did. I thought they shot it really well, guys like [Isaac] Mack, [Tradarri] McPhearson, [Teris] Bourgeois, guys that had not really shot for that kind of percentage just wore it out. We couldn’t stop them and couldn’t guard them.”
Floyd said he thought his team was in trouble at halftime, when 57.1 percent shooting was good for only a two-point lead (36-34).
The backbreaker was an 11-0 run that turned a 55-49 UTEP lead into a 60-55 deficit with seven minutes to go. C.J. Cooper hit a three pointer, then followed Cedrick Lang’s miss with a putback to knot the score with 5:24 to play. Nine seconds later Derenbecker, who scored 12 points, put the Privateers into the lead for good.
The Miners had their chances in the final three minutes, but Cooper and Jalen Ragland both missed open three point shots.
After New Orleans’ Kevin Hill split two free throws with eight seconds left, UTEP had the ball down two but Ragland missed a three and Lang couldn’t convert his offensive rebound into a basket.
Ragland scored a career-high 19 points, but 17 came in the first half. He was 0-for-3 from the floor in 17 second-half minutes. Vince Hunter also had a career-best scoring game for UTEP, finishing with 17 points.
The Miners cooled off to 37.1 percent shooting and simply couldn’t stop the Privateers, who heated up to 60.9 percent in the second half and 50.9 percent for the game.
“I thought our screen and roll coverage was very poor,” Floyd said. “I give them a lot of credit. We couldn’t get it down late. We had some looks. A couple of threes by Ragland were great looks, and the three by Cooper was a great look and we didn’t get the putback. But when you’re giving up that kind of percentage, that’s what you expect. You expect to be on the tail end of it. We didn’t really have an answer for them defensively at all.”
Crosgile joined Moore on the sideline, with both serving suspensions.
“[Crosgile] was a distraction during the week. That’s all I can tell you,” Floyd said. “I’m going to make sure the squeaky wheels don’t get all the grease around here, because we have a big picture in mind that we’re trying to get to the NCAA Tournament. I feel like the distractions were a real pain to us in the last week. Obviously we couldn’t get C.J. any blows [39 minutes] in the game. I thought he played hard and spirited. But we were without two guys that were in our rotation.
“We’re going to have a team that’s not going to be constant maintenance. We’re just not going to go through it. We’re going to come out and compete for each other. There are two kinds of guys, those with agendas and those without them, and we’re going to play the guys without them.”
John Bohannon had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards as the Miners enjoyed a slim rebounding advantage (33-32). Derenbecker came close to a double-double with nine rebounds, and Cory Dixon tied him for team-high scoring honors with 12 points.
It’s apparent that the Miners have some work to do in the midst of a stretch of four games in eight days. The road gets tougher on Thursday at 7:35 p.m. when Northwestern State comes to town.
“It’s going to be a better team that we’re playing on Thursday than we played tonight,” Floyd said. “Northwestern State was in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. They beat Auburn by 20 at Auburn earlier in the year. They led the nation in scoring a year ago. It will be a very difficult matchup for us.”