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January 7, 2009

Miners defeat Lobos 73-60 at The Pit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - UTEP rode a big second half, which included 12-point performances from Stefon Jackson and Julyan Stone, to a coveted victory at The Pit on Tuesday night.

The Miners outscored New Mexico 49-33 after the break en route to a 73-60 triumph over the Lobos.

It was UTEP's first double-figure win at The Pit since a 79-65 victory on Feb. 23, 1985.

"We played with a lot of composure in the second half," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "The biggest thing that we had to do was, knowing the type of environment and atmosphere that we were going to be dealing with tonight, was to get the crowd out of the game early. We could not let them get started and stay into it the entire way."

The Miners didn't trail by more than four points the entire night and took the lead for good at 43-42 on a layup by Randy Culpepper with 12:04 remaining.

UTEP (9-5) limited New Mexico (9-7) to a season-low 28.8 percent shooting, including 26.9 percent in the second half. It was the Lobos' worst shooting performance since firing at a 27.6 percent clip against BYU in the 2000 Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.

"To come into this environment against a very, very good team that is very well coached and to guard them the way that we did, that is the most complete defensive effort that I might have been around period," Barbee said. "It is what I call 'desperation defense.' Every possession, you play life or death on the defensive end of the floor."

New Mexico made just seven of 26 field goal attempts in the second half. The Lobos could never get going from three point range either, misfiring on 16 of 21 tries. Their top long-range bomber, Chad Toppert, missed six of his first seven three point attempts and finished 3-for-9 from beyond the arc.

"It was really a disappointing shooting performance," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "We couldn't stop them offensively in the second half, and I think that really affected our defense. They had a much better second half. We had one guy (Daniel Faris) who was making over 50 percent of his shots, but he was in foul trouble. That makes it difficult."

UTEP shot 50 percent in the second half and made 22-of-23 free throws, finishing at 26-for-29 from the charity stripe. The Miners also outrebounded the Lobos 24-11 in the second period to win the battle of the boards 41-33.

UTEP seized control of the game with a 16-4 run early in the second period that turned a 40-38 deficit into a 54-44 lead.

"We came out and jumped on them right away in the second half," Barbee said.

Jackson led UTEP with 18 points as the Miners had five players in double figure scoring for the first time this season. Culpepper added 14 points, Stone and Tavaris Watts had 12 each and Arnett Moultrie had 10.

Faris led New Mexico with 16 points. The Lobos lost for just the second time in their last 40 non-conference home games.

After dropping nine games in a row in the Lobos' vaunted arena from 1991-99, UTEP has now emerged victorious in two of its last three trips to Albuquerque. The Miners won 73-66 during the 1999-2000 season and lost 76-72 during the 2005-06 campaign.

"UTEP is big," Alford said. "That team is going to be very good as it matures. I think they will have a good league season."

UTEP will open Conference USA play on Saturday at SMU. The game will be carried in El Paso on Time Warner Cable MetroSports Southwest Channel 24 beginning at 6 p.m. MST.


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