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TaShawn Thomas had a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Houston shot 55.1 percent from the field in a 79-61 win over UTEP on Wednesday night at Hofheinz Pavilion.
The Cougars (15-8, 4-6 C-USA) enjoyed the best shooting night by a Miner opponent this season in posting a rare blowout victory in a series where 15 of the last 19 games have been decided by eight points or less.
“I’m not very happy with our effort, starting with defensive transition,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “Our guards didn’t get back. We were not good on the boards. We got outrebounded 2-to-1. Our screen and roll coverage was not very good as well.”
Houston outrebounded UTEP 36-22, including 18-9 in the first half, and had six offensive rebounds in the second half, many down the stretch to extend possessions. After a Julian Washburn dunk carved a 15-point Cougar lead down to eight (66-58) with 6:12 remaining, Houston got three offensive rebounds in one sequence and capitalized with foul shots to push the lead to 69-58.
UTEP (13-10, 6-4 C-USA), scored one field goal in the last six minutes, a three pointer by Jalen Ragland with 2:29 to play. The Miners were outscored 13-3 in that stretch.
“We got it down to seven or eight and we didn’t rebound missed free throws. We got it down to seven or eight and let Joseph Young get loose on drives to the rim,” Floyd said.
Julian Washburn led the Miners with 17 points. John Bohannon made his return to the starting lineup and scored 11 points and Konner Tucker added 10.
“Our bench was not real good tonight,” Floyd said. “We decided that we’d start a bigger lineup tonight, and kind of liked the group that we had out there early. But when we went to the bench, things got worse.”
Houston kept pace with its C-USA leading 77.2 points per game scoring average, a bad omen for a UTEP team that is now 0-5 this season when allowing 70 or more in a regulation game.
Danuel House scored 19 points, Jherrod Stiggers had 13 off the bench and Young added 12.
“They were better than us in all areas, and we took a step back tonight,” Floyd said.
The first half was largely competitive, but the Cougars closed the period with a 10-1 run to take a 43-29 lead into the locker room. Houston burned UTEP with the three pointer in the first 20 minutes (7-for-10 from beyond the arc), then resorted to more high percentage shots after the break.
“They got [their points] off of screen and roll drives and screen and roll dumps,” Floyd said. “They got them off of rebound putbacks. They got the ball deep into Thomas on post-ups and House had a drive late. We were just non-existent in terms of help. It really was a poor effort.”
The Miners have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since late November. They will look to stamp out the losing streak at home against UCF on Saturday at 7 p.m., before hitting the road again for games at Southern Miss and New Mexico State next week.
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