El Paso, TX — John Bohannon and Vince Hunter both had double-doubles, and UTEP dominated Colorado State on the boards in an 82-74 victory on Tuesday night at the Haskins Center.
The Miners (3-1) ended a seven-game losing streak at the hands of the Rams (2-2), who had won on their previous three trips to El Paso.
UTEP outrebounded Colorado State 53-36 and had a season-high 19 offensive boards. Bohannon finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Hunter accumulated 11 points and 15 rebounds.
“The positive for us tonight was the rebounding margin,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “Who were those guys? The same group that got outrebounded by West Alabama [on Sunday]. And we’re playing against the premier rebounding coach in the country [Larry Eustachy]. That has been his M.O. Our guys went back and rebounded well. We had 28 points in the paint.”
Julian Washburn nailed a three pointer just before the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, sending the Miners to the locker room with a 42-35 lead. Eustachy picked up a technical foul, and C.J. Cooper capitalized with two free throws to start the second period. UTEP rode the wave of momentum to a 16-point lead (51-35) off a Hunter dunk with 14:54 remaining.
The Rams pecked away, particularly when Eustachy was assessed his second technical and ejected from the game with 15:36 to go. Colorado State got the lead under 10 (54-45) with 12:23 remaining and drew as close as three in the final five minutes.
With his team clinging to a 67-64 lead, UTEP’s McKenzie Moore buried a huge three pointer with 3:37 left. After Colorado State closed the gap to 76-72 in the final minute, he cashed in with a couple of foul shots, and the fans were finally able to exhale.
Moore led the Miners with 17 points. Washburn added 16 and Cooper had 15. The trio was a combined 19-for-20 from the line as UTEP shot 74.4 percent (32-for-43) from the charity stripe.
While Bohannon and Hunter had big games on the glass, UTEP received ample rebounding support from Cedrick Lang (eight boards) and Washburn (seven).
“What a fine athlete and instinctive rebounder Vince Hunter is,” Floyd said. “I think what’s so encouraging, and the difference in some of our point totals this early in the year versus last year, is the offensive rebounding numbers we’ve been able to put up. We really haven’t had an offensive rebounder since we’ve been here. I think Cedrick is much improved in that area. Vince Hunter, though, has been a tremendous addition there. What he’s doing is giving us multiple possessions on the offensive end with his rebounding.”
The free throws and second-chance opportunities were significant on a night where UTEP scored 82 points, but shot 39 percent from the floor.
“I thought McKenzie Moore made a couple of really important plays late,” Floyd said. “Obviously the three he knocked down on the skip from Julian Washburn was important. And he had a big dump off for a layup, which was important. I thought we played with pretty good poise for the first time we’ve been in a close game. We had an understanding of where we wanted to get the ball during that stretch to try to get fouled, which was important.”
J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano scored 19 points each for Colorado State.
“The negative was that we had great focus defensively in the first half, and a lack of focus with their driving game in the second half,” Floyd said. “They literally just lowered their head and drove it and got the ball to the rim. We’ll see that again with the [NM State] Aggies on Saturday night. That’s what they did [in Las Cruces], they just drove us.”
UTEP and NM State will play the rematch of the I-10 rivalry on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the Haskins Center. The Aggies topped the Miners, 86-73, at the Pan American Center last Friday.