Nightmare season over for UTEP basketball team
FRISCO, TEXAS – UTEP's nightmare of a season finally came to an end Wednesday. The Miners were eliminated in the opening round of the CUSA Tournament, losing to UTSA 71-58 at The Star in Frisco. Freshman Evan Gilyard pumped-in a career-high 29 points, which is something the Miners can look forward to next season.
UTSA (19-13) completed a three-game sweep of the Miners (11-20) during the 2017-18 season. It was a similar storyline to the first two meetings between the teams, where UTEP had trouble scoring and UTSA dominated the rebounding battle.
“You know, it’s really disappointing,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “Obviously we played those guys twice in two tough games, kind of down to the last minute. And then for them to get away from us like they did was really disappointing. We didn’t rebound the ball very well at all and we really stressed it. But I’m proud of our guys. Listen, we won four of our last six coming into the game. We never gave up. We kept fighting. We had some tough losses at Old Dominion and other places. But I give our guys credit and all our coaches credit.”
UTEP fell behind 39-29 at halftime. UTSA scored the first four points of the second half, stretching the lead to 14. The Roadrunners took their largest lead of 17 (62-45) with 9:44 to go on a three-point play by Nick Allen.
Gilyard made 10-of-25 shots and all six of his free throw attempts.
“He has the heart of a lion,” Johnson said. “Whoever coaches him next year and for the rest of his career has got a heck of a point guard. He showed it again tonight and I’m really proud of him. I’m proud of all of our team for not giving up all year. We had a really tough stretch there, we played tough teams and we didn’t check it in. That’s what I’m proud of. And I thought we were hard to play. Tonight was really not indicative of what we have been doing the last three weeks. We didn’t defend or rebound the way we have been.”
Omega Harris scored 12 points and Trey Wade posted his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Harris closes out an illustrious career ranked second in school history in three-point field goals (174), eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.388), ninth in scoring (1,407 points) and 10th in steals (126).
The Miners failed to advance in the C-USA Tournament for the first time in nine years, and for only the second time in the last 11 years.
It was a disastrous year for UTEP. Head coach Tim Floyd resigned early in the season. Senior grad transfer Keith Frazier led the team in scoring early in the year. He left the team, came back, then left again before the CUSA Tournament. Injuries to Matt Willms and Tirus Smith also contributed to UTEP's disappointing season. UTEP has already begun its search for a new head coach.