Tulsa suffocated UTEP defensively on Wednesday night, holding the Miners to a season-low point total in a 45-42 Conference USA win at the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
The Miners (9-7, 2-1 C-USA) were denied only their second 3-0 start since joining the league for the 2005-06 season. UTEP shot a season-worst 31.4 percent and tied its season low with 16 field goals.
“Congratulations to Tulsa. Danny [Manning] is doing a really nice job with his team. They are guarding as hard as anybody we’ve played against, and at this point we’ve played the strongest schedule in the country,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “Our shooting percentage is a reflection of the intensity of their defense, their discipline defensively and the fact that they didn’t foul.”
Despite their offensive struggles, the Miners had a chance to send the game into overtime. But Konner Tucker’s three-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired.
Tucker had a particularly tough night, making 3-of-13 shots and 1-of-7 three pointers for a UTEP team that shot 4-for-20 from beyond the arc. No UTEP starter scored in double figures as John Bohannon led the way with 11 points off the bench.
Tulsa (11-7) improved to 3-1 in Conference USA play with two wins where it has scored less than 50 points.
The Hurricane survived on a night where its top returnee from a year ago, Scottie Haralson, shot 0-for-8 from the field. Newcomers Kauri Black and James Woodard led Tulsa with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
After getting dominated on the boards in the early stages of the game, Tulsa rallied for a 35-33 rebounding edge led by Black and Haralson (five each).
“They’re undersized, but they proved that has no bearing on the ability to go back and defensive rebound, which they did a very nice job of,” Floyd said.
The Miners jumped out to an 11-6 lead early, then scored nine points over the last 14:31 of the half in falling behind 21-20. After UTEP went up 30-26 on a basket by Tucker with 10:55 to go, Tulsa went on a 9-0 run and didn’t trail again, although the Miners did have their opportunities down the stretch.
A big sequence came with 20 seconds left, when Tulsa, clinging to a 42-40 lead, got a three-point play from freshman Zeldric King off a hail mary pass from Haralson.
“I thought they had a great execution play at the end, the throwover to a naked backside,” Floyd said.
The 87 points were the fewest scored by two teams in the history of the Reynolds Center, which opened in December of 1998.
“Defense wasn’t a real big problem for us. They scored 45 points,” Floyd said. “The issue was our inability to score, and that had a lot to do with them. It’s easy to come out of a game like this and say ‘We didn’t shoot well, gosh we missed some easy shots.’ But I thought they were challenged shots. There were shots taken by guys who were out of their comfort zone where they’re used to shooting with space. That’s a credit to Tulsa.”
Floyd refused to blame the loss on a quick turnaround following a home game versus Houston Baptist on Monday.
“We only played our guys 22, 23 minutes [in that game],” he said. “I can’t say that was the issue. Nobody likes to play teams that defend on the road. We caught one tonight that can defend. It’s obvious that Danny didn’t have the earmuffs on all of those years he was sitting next to Bill [Self].”
The Miners will try to get back on the winning track on Saturday at 2 p.m. when they host SMU, led by Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Sean Kugler and the UTEP football coaching staff will be introduced at halftime.