TEMPE, Ariz. -- — A rash of turnovers put UTEP in an eight-point halftime hole against Arizona State, not an ideal spot for a mid-major team to be on the road against a Pac-12 school.
The Miners shook off their mistakes and played a nearly perfect second half, pulling off their biggest nonconference win in three years under coach Rodney Terry.
“We came in at halftime and said, we played with these guys for a half, we're the best team,” Terry said. “We can't talk about it. We've got to go out and do it, take the win..”
The Miners opened their desert road trip by keeping Arizona close until the Wildcats stretched the lead in the final three minutes to win 69-61.
UTEP (3-2) appeared to be in trouble against Arizona State after a late run put the Sun Devils up eight at halftime. The Miners picked up the pace to start the second half and picked apart the Sun Devils' pressure defense to pull away.
The Miners made 15 of 30 shots in the second half and held Arizona State (4-3) to two extended scoring droughts to earn what could be a program-building win.
“Great road win, great win for our program that we're trying to build,” Terry said.
The Sun Devils dropped a desert dud in their final game before the Pac-12 season resumes next week.
Arizona State was plagued by too much one-on-one basketball on offense and couldn't slow the Miners on defense in the second half. The Sun Devils went 1 for 18 from the 3-point arc — missing all 11 attempts in the second half — and didn't score over the final 5:34.
Josh Christopher led Arizona State with 24 points.
“We have to decide if this is important enough to commit the emotional attachment to appear like you're really interested in playing and competing hard through the whole game,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “For 20 minutes, it was mysterious how inept we were in terms of competing and giving energy.”
The Sun Devils were dominated in the paint in a lopsided loss to No. 18 San Diego State last week, so being better inside inside became a priority.
Arizona State established Jalen Graham in the paint early — nine points in six minutes — and Christopher took over after that, scoring 13 first-half points. Arizona State had 26 points in the paint, using a closing 10-2 run to lead 41-33.
UTEP shot decently (14 of 30) in the first half, but had 10 turnovers that led to 11 points for Arizona State.
The Miners, sparked by Boum, opened the second half with a 13-2 run. Boum had nine points, hitting consecutive 3-poitners and three free throws after being fouled on another attempt from the arc.
UTEP kept making shots and shut down Arizona State — more than five minutes without a field goal — to push the lead to 66-56 with eight minutes left.
Arizona State used its defense to spark its offense while cutting the lead to five, but UTEP answered with a 8-0 run to go up 76-63 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
The Miners kept the lead in place by breaking Arizona State's pressure and holding the Sun Devils to 1-of-10 shooting to close the game.
“These are games we can't afford to lose, we shouldn't lose,” Christopher said. “Home court, we shouldn't come close to losing this game. We had an eight-point lead and we need to capitalize, not let teams feel comfortable and come back.”
UTEP faded late against Arizona, but backed it up with its best nonconference win of the season.
Arizona State fell flat in the second half to lose to a team picked to finish ninth in Conference USA — not what it wanted just before the bulk of the Pac-12 season starts.
Arizona State guard Remy Martin bounced back from quiet game against San Diego State by playing with his usual intensity against Grand Canyon, hitting the game-winning shot and finishing with 33 points.
The senior played a backseat role again at UTEP, finishing with nine points on 2-of-7 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point attempts.
“Remy, I need to talk to him,” Hurley said. “He needs to have more of an impact, get guys more motivated somehow. He's been on three years of really good teams that have been relevant nationally and in our conference. I just wonder how much he enjoys this team.”
UTEP hosts Benedictine University at Mesa on Sunday.
Arizona State resumes its Pac-12 schedule against Utah on Tuesday.
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