EL PASO, Texas – The UTEP Miners (5-6) face North Dakota State (6-6) in the championship game of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational after both teams were victorious on Thursday at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
UTEP picked up its fourth consecutive victory on Thursday, Dec. 21, with a 69-56 victory over Howard University (2-12). Keith Frazier, Omega Harris and Tirus Smith led the way for the Miners, combing for 57 of their 69 points. The Miners took advantage of an early 24-7 run and never lost the lead to head into Friday’s title game. UTEP has not won the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational since 2014.
North Dakota State vs. UNC Wilmington – Recap
North Dakota State’s Tyson Ward scored 17 points while his teammates Deng Geu and Paul Miller added 16 points each as NDSU opened the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational with a 100-63 win over UNC Wilmington on Thursday evening.
The Bison seemed to shoot the lights out shooting 61.1 percent from the field for the game and knocking down 14-of-25 from behind the three-point arc. Nine of their three-point field goals came in the first half, giving them a 52-28 lead heading into halftime.
It was almost the opposite for UNC Wilmington as it hit just 21-of-62 shots from the floor, which includes a 6-of-23 night from the three point line. Jaylen Fornes led the Seahawks with 15 points.
UTEP vs. Howard – Recap
The Miners took an early lead and never trailed with Keith Frazier leading the way with a game-high 23 points. Frazier drained four treys and pulled down eight rebounds while Omega Harris tallied 17 points and four assists. It was a nice night for Tirus Smith as he posted a career-high 17 points.
It seemed the Miners would take the game with ease as they took a 22-4 lead in the first 10 minutes of the game. UTEP jumped to a 30-15 lead before Howard went on a run of its own to make it a 33-28 ballgame but the Miners were able to defend its lead and head into the half with a 37-30 lead.
UTEP had a 9-2 run to start the second half and held the lead by as many as 20 points before rolling past the Bison for its fourth straight win. Defense was a key factor for the Miners as they held Howard to 31 percent shooting.
UTEP opened the second half with a 9-2 run to go ahead by 14 points (46-32) and maintained a double-digit cushion the rest of the night. The Miners led by as many as 20 points in the final minutes.
Friday, Dec. 22
5 p.m. (MT) – Howard vs. UNC Wilmington
7 p.m. (MT) – North Dakota State vs. UTEP
In 2009, the tournament was renamed to honor former UTEP head coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Don Haskins. “The Bear” coached at UTEP from 1961 to 1999, winning 719 games and making 14 postseason appearances. Haskins famously led the Miners to victory in the 1966 National Championship game over Adolph Rupp and the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats.
The WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational is the oldest holiday basketball tournament in the nation. Tickets to the tournament can be purchased by calling 915-533-4416 or at the Don Haskins Center on game day.
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