The simplest rule of basketball is that the game is easier when the ball goes in.
The UTEP men’s competition against Northern New Mexico College was never going to be difficult. Indeed, the Miners made the layup in an 87-50 rebound win that took their record to 6-2, and the tone was set when a team miserable from the 3-point line started to take them from the opening lead to rain .
A UTEP team that was 21% from 3-point range (and 59% from arc) made five of their first seven from range to build a fast cushion that only grew. The Miners finished the game 11-25 with 3 points, but only after cooling with a 30-point lead.
That game against a team several tiers below them was all about recovering from Wednesday’s debacle in New Mexico state, and that’s exactly what the Miners did.
What UTEP basketball said
“No disrespect to Northern New Mexico, but what happened today should have happened,” said coach Joe Golding. “I was more concerned about how we handled Wednesday night. We kicked each other’s butts, it was the first time we didn’t show up ready to play and I was curious to see how we reacted.
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“Life knocks you down from time to time, how do you react? I liked how our boys reacted. We had one of our better training sessions on Friday that we’ve had in a long time and I thought although the opponent is the opponent We did a lot well on defense today.”
Shamar Givance set the tone with consecutive 3-pointers on UTEP’s third and fourth possessions en route to a 14-point first-half win. He played nine scoreless minutes in the second half but had five assists and four steals and led the team on a night where 10 players made multiple baskets.
Shooting “is something my coaches and my teammates have known I could do throughout my college career,” he said. “Just before the game they gave me confidence and told me to keep shooting the ball even though I shot badly earlier in the season, it was great to see the ball go in.”
Dos Anjos back
Another notable moment represented by that game was the return of Jon Dos Anjos, who was injured just after getting into the opener against Texas a month ago when he came on as a sixth man. He played 19 minutes on Saturday and scored 10 points.
“It was fun,” he said. “I was out seven games, it was fun to play with the team again. It was very exciting for me. I know it wasn’t a very, um, good team, but it was good to get out of there, get some reps, get back to court.”
“That was great to see,” Golding said. “That git has been working his butt off behind the scenes for the past four weeks. Rehab is the worst. You’re away from the team, you can’t train that much, it’s lonely days with you and the coach.
“You’re happy when they come out. I thought he looked good. He played some good minutes, did some good things. He makes us a better team. He’s a good player and gives us more depth.”
How it went for UTEP miners
UTEP hit 3-pointers on his second, third and fourth possessions to move to a 9-0 lead that was soon enough 22-6.
The Miners faced a cold stretch and the advantage was 30-15 before they got things rolling again and took a 46-19 lead at halftime.
The second half had some sloppy moments and some brilliant ones from Derick Hamilton, the big man at the back of the UTEP bench. In five minutes of the second half, he had 11 points with four rebounds and a steal. He left to a huge ovation.
The announced attendance of 3,498 did not include Golding’s parents watching her son-in-law Sonny Dykes coach the TCU football team in the Big 12 championship game. Dykes is Joe Golding’s brother-in-law.
As expected, they didn’t miss a competitive game at Haskins Center, but it was a UTEP that was needed.
“Come back to us defensively,” Golding said. “One minute before the end of the game, Rio (Mario McKinney) dives to the ground. It’s a culture, it’s discipline, it’s responsibility for who we are.”
That’s what Saturday was about.
Next for UTEP basketball
The miners have a week off before heading to DePaul on November 10th. The game begins at 4:30 p.m. mountain time and will be broadcast nationwide on FS1.
Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359; [email protected]; @Bretbloomquist on Twitter.