We just got manhandled by UTEP.
UTEP. That's the University of Texas at El Paso. A team that lost over 80% of its scoring from last year's squad. A team that sported a 4-6 record coming into the game, with the wins coming against UC Riverside, New Mexico State, Southern, and McNeese State. A team that counts itself as one of the youngest in the entire country. A team that we have no business losing to. Period.
Just how young is this UTEP team? Out of the nine Miners that saw action in today's game, only two were upperclassmen, and five-that's right, five-were freshmen (1 senior, 1 junior, 2 sophomores, 5 freshmen). Sophomore guard Michael Perez went off on us, playing the entire game and scoring a career-high 25 points. The rest of the Miners didn't do too shabby either, as the team shot 51.2% from the field and 35% from behind the arc.
The Tigers, on the other hand, did not shoot well. Simply put, that was one of the most abysmal offensive performances I've ever seen in a college basketball game. The Tigers converted just 17 of 56 shots (30.4%), and only made 3 of 21 three-pointers (14.3%). We actually shot pretty well in the latter part of the first 1st half and the first few minutes of the 2nd half, but two long dry spells at the beginning and end of the game made me want to gouge my eyes out.
In the first ten and a half minutes of the 1st half, we made just one field goal. We went nearly six minutes before scoring any points at all. We had just 5 points at the halfway mark of the 1st half. We actually went on a bit of a scoring run in the last few minutes of the 1st half and the opening minutes of the 2nd, (we had an 11-0 run going at one point) but just when I thought we had finally gotten things going, we reverted back to our ineptitude on offense. In the last 13 minutes and 40 seconds of the game, we made just one field goal.
We had two separate 10+ minute stretches that yielded a combined two converted field goals.
More after the jump.
Part of the problem was Tim Floyd's unique trash defense, which saw three men play a zone in the paint, while the other two played man on Andre Young and Tanner Smith. Floyd knew that taking Andre and Tanner out of the game was key to the Miners' chances. Tanner was seriously inhibited by the defense (he was held to just 7 points), and Andre was completely shut down. He shot just 1 of 9 from the field and finished with just 6 points. The lone field goal for Andre came in transition following a UTEP turnover, meaning the defense wasn't set. This marked the second consecutive game in which Andre failed to make a three-point basket.
UTEP turnovers in the first half helped keep the Tigers in it. The Miners had 12 1st half turnovers, and in many cases the UTEP guards simply lost their handle of the ball. The Tigers didn't play very good defense today. The Tiger frontcourt let too many Miners slip behind them on the baseline. Milton would stand under the basket, watching the man with the ball while another UTEP player slipped behind him. The guy would get the pass and get an easy layup. Our defense has been a relative strength this year, so it was disheartening to see so many easy layups for the opposition.
One of the only bright spots of the game was the play of K.J. McDaniels. The Tigers didn't score a single point in the first five minutes of the game. The starting lineup of Rod Hall, Bobo, Devin Booker, Andre, and Tanner just simply couldn't get it done on offense. McDaniels came in and his impact was immediate. He provided a spark that the Tigers sorely needed, scoring 10 of Clemson's first 12 points. I was impressed with the effort he gave in trying to rebound the ball, as well as the overall energy he brought to the court. His biggest highlight came when he made a 3 and a dunk on back-to-back possessions that forced a Miners timeout. His play may have sizzled out in the 2nd half, but Brownell might reconsider McDaniel's role on this team in light of today's performance. K.J. finished the game with a career-high and team-high 13 points. He also had 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal.
Milton also had a decent game. He didn't have a spectacular game, but he played pretty well, especially considering the fact that he missed Wednesday's practice with a sickness and was not feeling well at gametime today. He shot 5 of 7 from the field, nailing several mid-range jumpers, and finished with 10 points. He also grabbed 4 rebounds, forced a steal, and committed only one turnover.
What can be said about the other guys? Bobo was a non-factor (6 min.s, 2 points), as was Bernard Sulllivan. B-Nice and T.J. Sapp went a combined 0-5 from beyond the arc, and combined for just a single point. Rod Hall shot poorly as well, missing his first 8 shots en route to a measly 4 points.
And Devin Booker apparently doesn't even know how to catch the ball. With Tanner and Andre being almost completely shut down, Devin needed to step it up. He finished with 5 points, 5 rebounds, and no blocks. That kind of stat line would be impressive if it was coming from someone like Bobo, but Devin Booker needs to do a lot more than that if he wants to shake his identity as an underperformer.
All-in-all, a very disappointing performance by this team. I was looking forward to the game with Kansas State and a chance to possibly play Xavier on Sunday, but instead we get a date with Southern Illinois and probably Hawaii or Long Beach State.
The Tigers play Southern Illinois tomorrow in a game with a 3:00 tip that will be telecast by ESPNU.