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Rally Falls Short as Southern Miss Drops 59-56 Heartbreaker to No. 25 UTEP

Sai'Quon Stone drives to the basket in the first half.

Sai'Quon Stone drives to the basket in the first half.

Feb. 24, 2010

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Josimar Ayarza's three-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out and Southern Miss could not complete its second comeback in as many days, dropping a 59-56 heartbreaker to No. 25 UTEP Wednesday night at Reed Green Coliseum.

Junior Gary Flowers led Southern Miss with 15 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Junior R.L. Horton scored 11 points and had six rebounds, and sophomore Angelo Johnson dropped in 10 points. Sophomore Maurice Bolden added nine rebounds and senior Andre Stephens grabbed eight.

The Golden Eagles (16-11, 6-7 C-USA) led 29-28 at the half. But UTEP (21-5, 12-1) opened the second half on a 19-6 run over first 10:13 to take a 47-35 lead. The Miners then extended their advantage to 15, at 53-38 with 7:57 to play.

That's when the Black and Gold made their move. Johnson bookended a 9-0 run with a jumper and a three-pointer that pulled Southern Miss to within 53-47 with 4:33 remaining. Two Randy Culpepper free throws pushed the lead back out to eight. But six straight points by the Eagles pulled then to 55-53 with 2:08 to play.

A Culpepper free throw followed by a Derrick Caracter putback gave the Miners a 58-53 lead with 57 second left, but Flowers connected on a three-pointer six seconds later to again pull within two. Johnson then stole the in-bounds pass, but his jumper rimmed out, as did Ayarza's, and Jeremy Williams pulled down the rebound.

Horton then fouled Culpepper, who made the first of two free throws with 13 second left for a 59-56 lead. Bolden rebounded the miss and got the ball to Johnson. He was stone-walled at the three-point line and passed to Flowers, who gave it to Ayarza for the game-tying attempt. But the ball-rimmed out, and UTEP held on.

The teams traded baskets through the first eight minutes of the game. With the game tied at 10, Southern Miss went on a 9-0 run, capped off by a LaVanne Pennington trey to take a 9-0 lead. UTEP twice pulled within six, but a three-pointer by Bolden gave the Golden Eagles a 24-15 lead with 6:41 to play in the first half.

However, the Miners went on an 11-0 run over the next 2:31 to take a 24-21 lead with 4:10 to play. A three-pointer by Horton, followed by a lay-up by Flowers put Southern Miss ahead 29-26, but two Culpepper free throws with one second left pulled UTEP to within 29-28 at the break.

Southern Miss shot 33.3% (20-of-60) from the floor, but just 29% in the second half. UTEP connected on 20-of-54 (37.0%) shots. The Golden Eagles outrebounded the Miners, 46-38.

Caracter and Culpepper led UTEP with 17 points apiece. Myron Strong dropped in 11 points. Caracter and Arnett Moultrie led the Miners on the boards with eight apiece.

Southern Miss goes on the road for the first time in two weeks this Saturday, Feb. 27, when it Memphis. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT and will be televised on CBS College Sports.

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