Down by 11 at halftime and struggling on offense, the UTEP Miners heated up with seven 3-pointers after intermission and finally subdued the UTSA Roadrunners, 69-64, on Thursday night at the Haskins Center in El Paso.
UTEP, paced in the second half by long-distance shooting from Jorell Saterfield, handed UTSA its fifth straight loss and kept the Roadrunners winless in Conference USA. The Miners have won two in a row and three of their last four.
Dogged by injuries and Covid-19 issues, the Roadrunners played only seven players — six of them on scholarship, plus walk-on forward Isaiah Addo-Ankrah. Division I basketball programs are allowed up to 13 scholarships.
The Roadrunners, sparked by Addo-Ankrah’s nine points off the bench in 17 minutes, stayed in the game through much of the second half until the Miners took over.
“We’re not going to let our guys off the hook,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said on the team’s radio broadcast. “We had enough guys to play, and we had enough guys to win. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. Need to be a little tougher.
“Yeah, there was some fatigue. Some guys had never played big minutes (in college). Especially the young guys who had never done it … Isaiah, for him to go in there in that setting and do what he did, was pretty impressive.”
Germany’s big night
Junior center Jacob Germany led the Roadrunners with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He hit 9 of 18 from the field, including some long jump hooks. Senior guard Darius McNeill added 19 points, 5 rebounds and an assist. Both McNeill and guard Erik Czumbel played all 40 minutes.
Phoenix Ford had 11 points off the bench for the Roadrunners, who shot 63 percent from the field in the first half but only 28 percent after intermission.
For the Miners, Souley Boum scored 22, Saterfield had 18 and Jamal Bieniemy 11 points. Saterfield hit six of the Miners’ 10 three-point shots. Bieniemy also totaled 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Playing without Jordan Ivy-Curry for the third straight game, the Roadrunners shot 63 percent from the field and rolled to an improbable 38-27 lead before intermission. UTSA hit its first six shots for a 12-3 lead to set the tone.
The Roadrunners also finished strong by hitting its last three before the half. Germany, a 6-foot-11 lefthander, led the way with 14 points on 7 of 8 shooting. McNeill started and scored 10.
On the defensive end, UTSA was just as effective, holding UTEP to 33 percent (10 of 30 afield), with Boum scoring 13 to keep his team in the game.
The Roadrunners started with a lineup that included McNeill and Erik Czumbel at the guards, Lamin Sabally and Lachlan Bofinger at forwards and Germany in the post.
The UTSA men’s basketball program announced that the following players would not be available for Thursday night’s road game against the UTEP Miners: Aleu Aleu is out with a season-ending injury. Also, Josh Farmer, Jordan Ivy-Curry and Christian Tucker are all in COVID protocols.
Within the past few weeks, the Roadrunners have also lost guard Dhieu Deing, who left the team to turn professional, and power forward Cedrick Alley, Jr., who is academically ineligible. Both are expected to be lost for the season. Deing was the team’s leading scorer and Alley was the leading rebounder.
UTSA 7-12, 0-6
UTEP 10-8, 3-3
Sunday — UTEP at UTSA, 3 p.m.
Jan. 27 — FIU at UTSA, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 — FAU at UTSA, 1 p.m.
Feb. 3 — UTSA at Rice, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 — UTSA at North Texas, 5 p.m.
Feb. 7 — UTSA at Middle Tennessee, TBD