March 13, 2008
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Guard Stefon Jackson hit a jumper with 12 seconds left to hand UTEP the lead for good on the way to an 80-77 win over the University of Houston men's basketball team on Thursday during the quarterfinals of the 2008 Conference USA Championship at FedExForum.
UTEP's Julyan Stone hit a pair of free throws to give the Miners a 76-70 lead with 2:24 remaining, but UH senior guard Robert McKiver drained a 3-pointer 18 seconds later to cut that deficit in half. After a missed UTEP shot, Lewis pulled the Cougars to within one at 76-75 on a layup.
On the ensuring possession, Jackson was fouled but missed both free throws. The Cougars snared the rebound and following a Dion Dowell missed jumper, McKiver was fouled with 21 seconds remaining.
The New Haven, Conn., native drilled a pair of free throws to hand the Cougars a 77-76 lead. That set the stage for Jackson's eventual game-winning shot.
After Jackson's jumper put the Miners ahead 78-77, the Cougars called a timeout to set up a play. McKiver drove to the basket and appeared to be fouled, but officials ruled the strip was clean and, with the loose ball going off McKiver's leg, awarded the ball to the Miners with only three seconds remaining.
Jackson was fouled immediately when the Miners inbounded the ball and connected on both free throws for the final margin of victory.
McKiver scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Cougars, while sophomore guard Kelvin Lewis finished with 21 points. Senior forward Dion Dowell added 19 points - including three 3-pointers - with eight rebounds, while senior forward Tafari Toney topped all players with nine rebounds in the loss.
Jackson finished with 23 points, while guard Marvin Kilgore added 18 points in the win. Tavaris Watts posted 12 points, and guard Randy Culpepper chipped in with 10 points for the Miners.
The game went back and forth throughout the afternoon with neither team building a double-digit lead. In the first half, the Cougars built a 29-27 lead on Lewis' 3-pointer with 4:21 remaining, but the Miners embarked on an 11-0 run over the next 2:18 to take a 38-29 lead. UH chipped away to a seven-point halftime deficit.
UH came roaring out of the locker room after the break, taking off on a 12-4 run to start the second stanza and grabbed a 47-46 lead at the 12:49 mark on a pair of Dowell free throws.
But the Miners pushed their advantage back to seven points. UH pulled to within a point at 57-56, 63-62 and 66-65, but the Miners answered each Cougar rally with a run of their own.
With the loss, the Cougars fell to 22-9 overall. UTEP improved to 19-12 and will face Tulsa in the semifinals.
The Cougars now must wait until Sunday to learn their postseason fate. Invitations to both the NCAA and the NIT tournaments will be extended by Sunday evening.