UTEP's "2 Step" Ends Spartan's Season

Spartan Basketball Season comes to a close, as UTEP dances the "2-step" in WAC Tourney. Spartans long but short season comes to a close with another loss to UTEP in WAC Tourney 86-80.

Texas El Paso's Omar Duran tied his own school record for three-point field goals with seven, propelling UTEP to an 86-80 win over San Jose State in the play-in game of the Williams WAC Tournament on Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla.

The El Paso native scored 24 points as the Miners advanced to meet host Tulsa (19-9, 12-6 WAC) on Thursday.

"We didn't have an answer for Duran. He hurt us in El Paso with some three's. He turned the game around in El Paso. We were really aware of him coming into the game," said San Jose State coach Phil Johnson. "Two, we couldn't keep them off the free throw line. We couldn't guard the drive. It seemed like every possession, they're shooting free throws, and I'm not talking about officiating. I'm talking about our inability to guard the drive."

UTEP (6-23, 3-15 WAC)has beat the Spartans (7-21, 4-14 WAC) for the second time in three meetings this season.

"We didn't guard very well. We didn't run our offense very well for the large portion of the game, but when it got to be the most important part of the game, we made a lot of big plays," said UTEP coach Billy Gillispie

UTEP was shorthanded. Juniors Chris Craig and Darius Mattear were suspended for oversleeping earlier in the day, leaving the Miners with only seven players.

"It's not a big deal," said UTEP coach Billy Gillispie. "They're both great kids."

The Miners jumped out to a 9-0 lead and didn't trail until 1:31 left in the first half, when Brandon Hawkins scored on a tip-in to put San Jose State ahead 43-42.

UTEP was up 44-43 at the half.

The Spartans took their biggest lead of the night at 59-56 on a jumper by Antonio Lawrence with 11:25 to go. San Jose State led 63-62 on a jumper by Brandon Hawkins with 9:09 to play. It was the Spartans' last lead.

The Miners scored the next nine points for a 71-63 advantage on a three-pointer by Thomas Gehrke with six minutes left, before holding off San Jose State down the stretch.

With his team ahead 75-72 and 1:01 on the clock, Duran drained his seventh trey of the night to put the game away.

"The game was a little faster than we've been playing. It was in the 80's. We prefer the game to be in the 50's or 60's," Johnson added about his team that reached the 80-point plateau only once in regular season action. "We wanted to attack, and, if we had good looks, we would take them. I thought we had pretty good shots most of the night.

"We've been in position to win games, but don't close it out. That's been on-going all season. We just haven't been good enough the last 4,5, 6 or 7 minutes to win. I thought we had a chance tonight."

UTEP made 58.8 percent of its three-point shots (10-17), tied for the eighth-best game percentage in school history. The Miners shot 54 percent and outrebounded San Jose State 38-34. The Spartans shot 46 percent. Brandon Hawkins finished his San Jose State career as the Spartans' leading scorer and rebounder in the game with 19 points and six rebounds.

Antonio Lawrence returned to the starting lineup for the first time in two weeks after recovering from an ankle sprain and scored 16 points to go along with five steals.

This long but short season has finally come to an end.

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