El Paso, TX — Cezar Guerrero and Marvelle Harris combined for 24 of Fresno State’s 35 second half points, as the Bulldogs pulled away late to beat UTEP, 61-56, in the first round of the CBI on Wednesday.
The Miners’ season ended with a 23-11 record, including seven losses on their home floor. UTEP lost its last two games at the Haskins Center and four of its last six.
“First of all, we’re disappointed. We would have loved to continue to play,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “Normally we talk defense. I thought offensively we were very inefficient. Fresno State did a really nice job of guarding our personnel and backing off the right guys, guarding the other guys. This game came down to guard play. Their guard play was much more efficient than our guard play.”
Guerrero led Fresno State (18-16), which advanced to the CBI quarterfinals, with 19 points. Harris added 14.
The Miners were held under 60 points for a second consecutive home game and shot 35.3 percent from the field.
“It seemed like when we lost as home, we weren’t as efficient on the perimeter as we needed to be,” Floyd said. “I go back to Tulsa, Southern Miss and this particular ballgame. We didn’t really shoot it for percentage, we didn’t defend for percentage, and they were more efficient in terms of not turning it over than we were. Their ability to drive it from the perimeter versus our ability to drive it from the perimeter was very apparent, in addition to our inability to make shots from the perimeter and their ability to make shots from the perimeter.
“We had situations like seven seconds side out of bounds, so you’ve got to go try to drive it in that situation. We settle for a 23-footer because again, can we get it by guys. Can we get it into the lane. It was a problem for us all year long.”
Despite their shortcomings, the Miners led by three points (49-46) with a little under six minutes remaining. Fresno State scored the next six points, however, including a three-pointer by Harris and a three-point play by Guerrero.
UTEP tied the game at 52 with 3:30 remaining on two free throws by C.J. Cooper. Fresno State scored seven of the next eight points, beginning with two free throws by Harris with 3:12 to go.
After Vince Hunter made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:57 left to make it a one-point game (54-53), the Miners forced a turnover, but Washburn missed a three pointer with 1:03 on the clock. Paul Watson nailed a three pointer with 27 seconds left to put the Bulldogs ahead 57-53.
Cooper tried to drive but missed a layup, and Harris made it academic on a layup with seven seconds to go.
John Bohannon closed out his UTEP career with 18 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. He finishes with 1,204 points (17th in school history), 825 rebounds (fifth) and 163 blocks (second).
“John finished and played well,” Floyd said. “I hate to see him go. I thought he matured as a player and also as a person. We wish him well. He’s the one guy who will depart. We’re going to have to probably add another big, I guess. We didn’t really feel that way a month ago, but we may need to. We tried to shore up our perimeter since December 28 with additions. Obviously we need to do that as well.”
Washburn added 16 points. Hunter had 10 rebounds as UTEP lost for the first time this year when he had seven or more boards (16-1). Cooper added seven assists.
The Miners now turn their attention to the 2014-15 season. Floyd and his staff will have a chance to add to an already gifted group of recruits during the spring signing period in mid-April.
“We’ll just have to go back and try to improve our product, try to get guys better,” Floyd said.