Roadrunners drop regular season finale to UTEP, 61-51
SAN ANTONIO — C.J. Cooper scored a game-high 20 points as UTEP withstood a 15-2 second-half run to top UTSA, 61-51, in the regular-season finale for both squads on Thursday night at the Convocation Center.
Devon Agusi scored 14 points to lead the Roadrunners, who will head to next week’s Conference USA Tournament in El Paso with an 8-21 mark overall after closing their inaugural season in the league at 4-12. UTSA will enter the postseason event as the No. 13 seed and face 12th-seeded East Carolina (16-15) at 9:30 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday, March 11.
Jordan Sims tied a career-high with 11 rebounds for UTSA, which grabbed a season-high 23 offensive rebounds and held a 42-39 edge on the glass. The Birds were limited to 31.8 percent shooting for the game and attempted a season-low 10 free throws.
Meanwhile, Cooper hit six shots, including three 3-pointers, for the game and scored 13 of his 20 points in the first half for the Miners (22-9, 12-4 C-USA). Cedrick Lang came off the bench to score 12 points, while John Bohannon neared a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds.
UTEP shot 44.2 percent in the game and registered 15 assists on 23 baskets.
The Miners stretched a 28-16 halftime lead to 17, 47-30, with 10:30 to play before the Roadrunners went on their 15-2 spurt.
Agusi ignited the spurt with one of his season-best three 3-pointers and added another trey following a basket from Sims. George Matthews, who also collected a career-high 10 boards, then connected from downtown and came up with a steal that led to a Hyjii Thomas dunk to pull within 47-43 with 7:24 remaining.
With five minutes left, Cooper quieted the season-high crowd of 1,688 with a 3-pointer that was answered by another bucket from Matthews to pull within 52-47.
However, UTEP would outscore UTSA 9-4 over the final three minutes to pull away for the 61-51 final.
Defense set the tone in the first half after an opening 7-1 burst by the Miners, who hit their first three shots before going just 6-of-20 (30 percent) the rest of the half.
However, UTSA could not capitalize on the cold shooting of UTEP, who limited the Roadrunners to 22.2 percent (6-of-27) shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Sims buried a triple to stop the Miners’ opening run, but Cooper scored eight consecutive points for UTEP to extend the lead to 15-6. Minutes later, a dunk by Matt Willms pushed the advantage to double-digits, 22-11, where it would stay for the rest of the half.
Devon Agusi found Edrico McGregor for a one-handed flush to give UTSA its final points of the period and the Roadrunners trailed 28-16 at intermission.