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John Bohannon and Cedrick Lang dominated inside for the second straight game, as UTEP posted its first road win in over a month with a 67-56 conquest of Rice on Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Bohannon and Lang combined for 19 points and 19 rebounds in limited action, helping the Miners (16-12, 9-5 C-USA) to a 42-26 beatdown on the glass. Rice (5-23, 1-13 C-USA) outrebounded UTEP 30-27 in the first matchup between the teams at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 6.
UTEP also outscored Rice 30-14 in the paint on Saturday, as Bohannon and Lang teamed to connect on 8-of-10 shots. Bohannon (10 points/eight rebounds) played only 20 minutes, and Lang (nine points/11 rebounds) played 18 as the Miners set this one on cruise control early in the second half.
“We got quality rebounding from the big guys,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “I thought the ball moved out of their hands and they created a lot of looks for our perimeter players with kicks.”
Rice led 13-11 when Bahrom Firozgary hit a free throw with 11:52 remaining in the first half. The Miners outscored the Owls 37-15 in the next 20 minutes in blowing out to a 20-point lead (48-28).
C.J. Cooper buried three three-point shots in the first half as UTEP took advantage of a depleted Rice bench. The Miners had a 15-1 lead in bench points in the first period, and 29-6 for the game.
“I thought that we got really quality play in the first half from C.J. Cooper coming in for Jacques [Streeter],” Floyd said. “Jacques didn’t get started off exactly perfectly. I thought when he came back in he was very good.”
Leading 34-24 at the half, the Miners applied the chokehold to the Owls by scoring the first six points of the second period. UTEP opened up a 24-point lead (61-37), its largest of the game, on a Lang layup with 4:46 remaining. After that, Floyd went to the bench and the Owls closed the game on a 19-6 run.
“I liked the way we started the second half defensively with the lead versus not guarding,” Floyd said.
Bohannon, Cooper and Julian Washburn tied for team-high honors with 10 points each. The Miners shot 47.2 percent while holding an opponent under 40 percent shooting in a fifth straight game for the first time since Don Haskins roamed the UTEP sideline. Rice, which shot 36.5 percent, was led by Tamir Jackson, who scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half.
“We have gotten improved play from Julian Washburn over the course of his last seven or eight games,” Floyd said. “I liked Chris Washburn [eight points] and Cedrick Lang late in the game. I thought they really passed the ball well and efficiently and tried to guard. We’re just pleased to get a win.”
The Miners remain in great shape for a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament, but missed an opportunity to clinch on Saturday when UAB stayed alive in the chase for a bye with a 74-69 win over SMU.
“You’re trying at the very least to not have to play in the play-in games [on Wednesday, March 13],” Floyd said. “We don’t want to do that. We’re just going to try to keep grinding out wins and see where that puts us. We’d like to finish this thing strong. We’re comfortable with who we are and why we’re in games with some kind of identity, and the defensive end is a big part of our ticket.”
UTEP will send out seniors Malcolm Moore, Jacques Streeter and Konner Tucker against C-USA regular season champion Memphis on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
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