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UTEP Coach Tim Floyd had three primary goals for his team heading into Monday’s non-conference game versus Houston Baptist. First and foremost, get a win. Second, delve deep into the bench with a matchup at Tulsa looming in 48 hours. And third, play better than it did in Saturday’s 74-63 victory over Marshall, particularly after the game was well in hand.
Check, check and check.
The Miners (9-6) shook off a slow start by outscoring the Huskies (4-13) 47-23 over the final 22 minutes in a 72-44 victory at the Haskins Center. No UTEP starter played more than 23 minutes, and seven Miner reserves teamed to score 27 points, including 24 in the second half.
“It was a nice win for us,” Floyd said. “We should’ve won the game. Our personnel is a little better than the group we played against. We haven’t been able to say that every night this year.”
The Miners allowed a season-low point total and held the Huskies to 31.7 percent shooting. Scheduling conflicts resulted in a rare January non-conference home game wedged between two league contests.
“It’s the kind of game that we would’ve loved to have played the first week of the season so we could’ve gotten Malcolm Moore, Hooper Vint and Twymond Howard those kinds of minutes early in the year,” Floyd said. “We couldn’t afford to do that once we got into the teeth of what ESPN just called the strongest schedule in the country. Every game we were either down or in a close one.”
C.J. Cooper was on the floor for 21 minutes to lead the UTEP reserves. Chris Washburn played 16 minutes, John Bohannon 14, Jalen Ragland 12, Howard and Vint 10 each, and Moore four.
“I love the fact that those kids came out and didn’t try to perform, but played the way we want to play,” Floyd said. “They didn’t get outside of themselves. They were able to extend the lead. They were able to play together and share together and move the ball and not play for numbers. Those things go a long way.”
A welcome sight was Cooper burying three three-pointers and tying his season high with nine points.
“It was nice to see him make some shots because that’s what we recruited him to do,” Floyd said. “He’s a very capable shooter, one of the better ones that I’ve coached along the way. He’s going to be an important part of what we’re trying to do down the road.”
Vint was particularly productive late with six points and three rebounds. Howard and Moore also pulled down three boards.
The Miners were outrebounded 20-17 in the first half. They controlled the glass in the second stanza 26-17.
“That’s a real positive,” Floyd said. “We also made more free throws  than they attempted , but we should have because we were bigger, stronger and more athletic, and we had more opportunities to get to the rim where you get fouled either off of post ups or drives.”
Konner Tucker led the starting unit with 12 points. It marked the sixth time in eight games that he has led the team in scoring. Cedrick Lang and Julian Washburn added 11 points each, and McKenzie Moore once again was a stat sheet filler with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Moore has collected at least seven rebounds in each of the last three games.
“The real encouraging thing that we’re seeing is the consistency of McKenzie Moore on the glass. That will help change our team because we got crushed on the glass the first 11 or 12 games of the season,” Floyd said. “One thing that has not been a strength of our team is the ability to offensive rebound it. McKenzie has given us one or two of those every game that he has been back.”
The Miners shot 44.4 percent and outrebounded Houston Baptist 43-37. UTEP also scored a season-high 20 second chance points behind 13 offensive rebounds.
“Guys did some things better,” Floyd said. “We got into offense better than we did in our last ballgame, and we guarded screen and roll better. I feel a little better about this one than I did the other night against Marshall.”
The Miners will vie for only their second 3-0 start since joining Conference USA on Wednesday at Tulsa (10-7, 2-1 C-USA). UTEP won its first three C-USA games in 2005-06, its initial year as a member.
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