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December 23, 2012EL PASO, Texas - Head coach Tim Floyd didn't watch Nebraska from the Don Haskins Center last night due to the flu, but he didn't have to look further than their season-high 89 points to see that his team was in for a defensive battle.
His team responded on both ends of the court right from the start and never let up.
Floyd returned from his illness after a one-game absence and UTEP beat Nebraska 68-52 to win the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational for the first time since 2009 Sunday night at the Don Haskins Center.
"I feel like we played really well defensively and offensively early. We were rebounding hard, getting push outs we were getting good looks and it was fun playing like that," Konner Tucker said.
The Miners scored the game's first 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-for-3 from the perimeter and never let the lead dwindle under nine points.
"It started with our defense so coach got on me, told me it starts with me on top, so he wanted me to get into the little guys and my teammates got into their guys and it made it easier," Jacques Streeter said.
UTEP was led by guards Streeter and Tucker with 17 points each and John Bohannon had a game-high 11 rebounds. Streeter was named to the All-Tournament team, Bohannon received the Don Haskins Award and Tucker was named the tournament's MVP.
The Miners shot 47.2 percent and held the Cornhuskers to 37.3 percent, just one night after Nebraska shot a season-best 57 percent. UTEP also outrebounded their opponent for the second night in a row with a 36-32 edge and for just the third time this year.
"Ultimately, we did rebound that ball. We won the rebounding game, which has been an Achilles' heel for us this year," UTEP assistant coach Greg Foster said. "It just makes it a lot more fun when we're able to rebound the ball, get out on transition."
The Huskers tried to cut into the Miner lead throughout the game led by Ray Gallegos' game-high 22 points, with 17 of them coming in the second half. Nebraska trimmed the lead to 11 with Floyd bringing in his second team late in the second but never got closer after that.
"Ray was great the second half, I think he did a marvelous job. UTEP by design will try to eliminate your two best scorers," Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. "They're going to deny him catches and limit his opportunities and it takes a special player to be able to get free of that."
Brandon Ubel was the only other Husker to score in double figures with 11 points.
Nebraska did not get on the board until the 13:33 mark of the first half after missing their first seven shots of the game.
The Huskers trimmed the lead to nine at 20-11 after UTEP went cold and hit just two of their next seven shots but that was the closest they would get the rest of the way. UTEP then responded with a 16-5 run to close the half and take a 36-16 halftime lead.
The Miners finished the half 13-of-26, 4-of-6 from the three and 6-of-9 from the free throw line.
William Vega can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at @WillVega21. Make sure to follow Miner Illustrated on Twitter at @minermaniac for more up-to-date news and information about UTEP.