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El Paso, TX — UTEP held Old Dominion to 25.5 percent shooting in starting 4-0 on the road in conference play for the first time since 1956 with a 63-49 win over the Monarchs on Saturday.
The Miners (18-6, 8-1 C-USA) swept another road trip after topping East Carolina on Thursday in Greenville. They moved a half-game ahead of Southern Miss into sole possession of first place in Conference USA with their eighth consecutive victory.
The .255 defensive field goal percentage was UTEP’s second-best in a C-USA game. UAB shot 23.7 percent in a 65-37 loss at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 8, 2006 – exactly eight years to the day.
Old Dominion (11-13, 5-4 C-USA) received 13 points from its top three scorers – Aaron Bacote, Dimitri Batten and Keenan Palmore – who were a combined 3-for-22 from the field.
“We’re very fortunate that Bacote and Batten struggled tonight,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “If those guys got it going, we would’ve had real problems. They had some pretty good looks, it just didn’t go down.”
The Miners jumped out to a 10-2 lead, but C.J. Cooper picked up his third foul at the 16:51 mark. In came Aaron Jones, who finished out the half and only committed one turnover in 15 minutes. Minus its starting point guard, UTEP actually increased the lead to 10 points (35-25) at halftime.
“A real key stretch for us was when C.J. picked up three fouls and Aaron came in and we survived it,” Floyd said. “The young man did a really good job getting us into play offensively and defensively, just to give us an opportunity to rebound it back on the offensive board or get something around the rim.”
After Old Dominion cut the deficit to single digits (41-32) on a three pointer by Ambrose Mosley with 14 minutes remaining, the Miners went on a 7-0 run and were in command the rest of the night.
John Bohannon led the Miners with 19 points and eight rebounds. Julian Washburn added 18 points as UTEP shot 57.9 percent in the first half and 48.7 percent for the game.
“Julian and John are playing at a high level,” Floyd said. “I thought our length was a factor in the game. Matt Willms, Cedrick Lang and Bohannon all played exceptionally well tonight.”
The Miners survived a stretch midway through the second half where the crowd, incensed with the officiating, really started getting into the game.
“I thought we played with pretty good poise,” Floyd said. “The crowd was active. We were able to get ourselves to the line by either throwing it up or [in isolation] situations, for the most part, all night long. The free throw line was our friend. Just being able to get to the line was a very important part of the game. We decided we were going to continue to post or drive it just to give ourselves a chance to go score.”
The Miners finished 22-of-32 from the line. Old Dominion actually shot more free throws (35) but matched UTEP with 22 makes.
For the second straight game, the Miners held an opponent under 50 points on the road.
“If you can defend and defensive board on the road, it gives you a chance,” Floyd said. “That’s really what our M.O. has been, and this group is playing with no agendas right now. There’s nobody worried about points or anything since we had this changeover Dec. 28. These guys are playing so unselfish and really taking responsibility for what they have to do on the defensive end. They’re doing a great job.”
UTEP will play back-to-back home games against Florida Atlantic on Thursday and Florida International on Saturday. Tip-off for both is 7:05 p.m. Thursday is “Black Out Night” and Saturday’s game will feature a halftime performance by “America’s Got Talent” winners Olate Dogs.
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