Game #9-162: Idaho at Texas-El Paso MinersDecember 8, 2012 9:00 pm
Special Events Center
My third visit this season to the Don Haskins Center in El Paso saw the host UTEP Miners play the Idaho Vandals for only the third time in history. In late December 1975, the Miners and Vandals played two consecutive nights in El Paso, the Miners winning both. In 1985, eight year Miner assistant Tim Floyd left El Paso for his first head coaching position, leading Idaho's program for two years before coaching at New Orleans, Iowa State, the Chicago Bulls, and Southern California. Floyd is in his third year back in El Paso, working to rebuild a proud program that, since Don Haskins' retirement, become somewhat of a revolving door. The tenures of the prior Miner head coaches have been four years or fewer: Jason Rabedoux (resigned due to personal scandal), Billy Gillispie (went to Texas A&M ...), Doc Sadler (Nebraska), and Tony Barbee (Auburn).
Idaho's head coach, Don Verlin, was a long-time assistant to Stew Morrill at Utah State, and now competes with his mentor in the WAC. Verlin's teams, like Morrill's, Haskins', and Floyd's, are known for tough versatile defense. I last saw Idaho in last year's WAC tournament, being upset by the Hawai'i Warriors
after finishing the regular season winning seven of eight. Most of the scoring from last year's Vandals has returned, and center Kyle Barone seems to be out of the doghouse after some offseason problems. The Vandals, somewhat strangely, are making three separate trips to the southwest this year, playing non-conference games at New Mexico, where the Vandals led in the early second half before a big Lobo run buried them, at UTEP, and visiting New Mexico State during WAC play; ironic when compared to the 1975 trip to El Paso for two games.
Both teams were coming off close victories. On November 28, the Miners nipped New Mexico State
by one point in El Paso; they have had a long break since. Two nights ago, on December 6, Idaho picked up an overtime win at Eastern Washington.
As usual in the land of mañana, the crowd arrived late, and the building was less than half full for the tip off; the crowd exceeded 8,000 in the end. (Looking up to where I sat during the Oral Roberts game
, I was surprised to note the absence of Mr. "Miner Ball.") I was not surprised by the starting lineup for Idaho, Barone and fellow seniors power forward Wendell Faines and guard Mike McChristian were joined by sophomore shooting guard Connor Hill and junior wing guard Stephen Madison. I was surprised by the UTEP lineup, particularly that freshman Chris Washburn started in place of junior post John Bohannon. I had not heard that Bohannon was injured, and it turned out he wasn't; still not sure why he didn't start. Washburn was joined on the floor by his brother, sophomore Julian Washburn, guards Jalen Ragland, a sophomore, and senior Jacques Streeter, and power forward Cedrick Lang, also a sophomore.
Julian Washburn started the scoring with the first bucket of his eight first-half points, but Connor Hill's first of three early #superhoops
gave Idaho an early lead. Both teams ran patient, half-court offenses against stalwart defenses, UTEP playing man-to-man for most of the night, and Idaho playing a matchup zone most consistently. The lead moved back and forth between the teams, tied at seven and twelve. When a four point Vandal run gave Idaho a three point lead, Bohannon came off the bench to score four for the Miners and keep them close. The Miners briefly showed a zone, but another Hill three-pointer put Idaho ahead by four, sending the Miners back to the man defense, which they extended the full court. The press keyed a 12-5 UTEP run to close out the half with the Miners leading 32-29.
Both teams shot the ball well, around 50% for the half, and the teams were within one rebound and one turnover. Hill's nine points for the Vandals from the three-point line led the game; Julian Washburn and Ragland each had eight for UTEP, and Bohannon added seven to go with four rebounds. The only player with foul trouble was Lang with three. Halftime brought us the non-Title R compliant UTEP Golddiggers, and the Miner legend for this game: Easy Ed Lannon, who played for El Paso Bel Air High before attending UTEP. This has been fun, having former Miners take the microphone and thank the fans for their long-term support; Floyd is definitely trying to reconnect former players--and their fans--to the current program.
The second half started with a slow, patient run by UTEP, outscoring the Vandals 18-4; Bohannon's third bucket of the half ended an 11-0 run with the Miners leading 50-33. Ragland also had three buckets in the run, including a trey. Julian Washburn's third bucket of the half made it 52-34 about halfway through the second period, and it seemed that the Vandals were done. Verlin took his fourth timeout with twelve minutes to play, and whatever he said, it seemed to turn the game around. Between triples by Hill, senior guard Mansa Habeeb's added a put back layup and Wendell Faines a short hook. When Hill made the free throw for the four-point play, the Vandals were only down seven at 53-45, completing their 11-0 run. Although the Miners scored four free throws, there were nine and a half minutes after the Idaho timeout before Ragland made a jumper with just under three minutes to play, increasing the Miner lead to six at 58-52. Much of this comeback came with usual Idaho inside scoring star Barone on the bench with foul trouble, picking up his third and fourth in less than one minute and sitting down with almost fourteen minutes to play; he returned with about six minutes left and lasted 90 seconds before fouling out.
The Vandals substituted three players for defense (Marcus Bell, Joe Kammerer, and McChristian), then three for offense (Madison, Hill and Faines) at most of the dead balls in the last three minutes. The lead closed to four on a Bell dunk, then again on a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Idaho guard Robert Harris. Madison's free throws cut the Miner advantage to two at 60-58. Idaho missed a chance to tie and Streeter canned a jumper pushing the Miners up by four. Harris responded with a short jumper and UTEP took a timeout, up two with twelve seconds to play. McChristian fouled Julian Washburn to stop the clock with nine seconds left, and for the second straight UTEP game, a Washburn stepped to the line and made the clinching free throws. Miners win, 64-60.
Jalen Ragland's three for seven from the three point line helped make him the Miners' leading scorer with seventeen. Julian Washburn added sixteen; Bohannon's fifteen points and ten rebounds off the bench made me question again why he did not start. Idaho's offense was led by Hill's sixteen points, but it was their defense that got them back into this game, and with just another minute to play, might have allowed them to escape with the Red Line Upset. Madison and Harris added nine each, and Bell scored eight. Eight
different Vandals had at least three rebounds in a great team effort. Idaho has a Black Line game against Walla Walla in a week, then starts a long holiday road trip: first a non-conference game in Boise, then the first three WAC games at Seattle, San Jose, and Utah State. UTEP has five more home games (UNLV, Oregon, the Sun Carnival Classic, then their Black Line game against Cameron from Oklahoma) and a non-conference game at Colorado State before CUSA play begins at Tulane.at TEXAS-EL PASO 64, IDAHO 60
IDAHO 3-5 (0-0) -- M. Habeeb 2-6 0-0 4; C. Hill 5-8 1-1 16; S. Madison 2-7 5-8 9; W. Faines 1-3 0-0 2; K. Barone 1-4 3-5 5; M. McChristian 0-1 3-5 3; D. Douglas 0-4 0-0 0; M. Bell 4-5 0-2 8; J. Kammerer 2-3 0-0 4; R. Harris Jr 4-5 0-0 9; M. Borton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 12-21 60.
TEXAS-EL PASO 3-4 (0-0) -- J. Washburn 7-13 2-3 16; J. Ragland 5-9 4-4 17; J. Streeter 2-4 0-0 5; C. Washburn 2-4 3-4 7; J. Bohannon 5-8 5-7 15; C. Cooper 0-4 0-0 0; M. Moore 1-1 0-0 2; C. Lang 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-44 14-18 64.
Three-point goals: ID 6-16 (M. Borton 0-1; S. Madison 0-4; C. Hill 5-7; M. McChristian 0-1; D. Douglas 0-2; R. Harris Jr 1-1), UTEP 4-12 (J. Streeter 1-2; C. Cooper 0-2; J. Ragland 3-7; J. Washburn 0-1); Rebounds: ID 28 (S. Madison 5), UTEP 23 (J. Bohannon 10); Assists: ID 12 (D. Douglas 4), UTEP 15 (J. Streeter 7); Total Fouls -- ID 21, UTEP 21; Fouled Out: ID-K. Barone; UTEP-None.