EL PASO, Texas – The UTEP Miners (8-1) defeated the UC Irvine Anteaters (7-6) 67-61 in the title game of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Dec. 17, 2019 in the Don Haskins Center. The Miners claimed the championship trophy of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational for the first time since 2014.
UC Irvine took an early lead going up 6-0 to open the game, however, the Miners stormed back with a 15-0 run, which was led by redshirt sophomore forward Tydus Verhoeven and sophomore guard Jordan Lathon. Lathon tallied seven points in the first half.
The Anteaters took a quick 34-30 lead in the second half but UTEP went on a 22-8 run to take a 10-point lead with 11:52 to go in the game. UC Irvine responded with a 9-0 run of their own to bring them within one point after a layup by Eyassu Worku.
With the game tied at 61, UTEP forward Bryson Williams, who would end up taking home the MVP honor, took over. Williams would finish the contest with 22 points, including going 11-of-14 from the free throw line.
The Miners shot 33.3% from the field and used tough defense to seal the win, forcing 22 turnovers while holding the Anteaters to 2-of-10 shooting in the final five minutes.
“I echo to my guys all year long on being a great defensive team,” said UTEP head coach Rodney Terry. “With defense, you can win games with defense at home and defense traveling. We don’t know how we’re going to shoot whether we’re at home or on the road, but we know that defense travels.”
Senior guard Eyassu Worku finished with a team high 19 points for the Anteaters.
In the consolation game the Kent State Golden Flashes (9-2) needed overtime to defeat the North Carolina A&T Aggies (3-9) 85-71.
The Golden Flashes down by three with eight seconds to play, nailed a corner three just before the buzzer to send the game into overtime. In the extra period the Golden Flashes outscored the Aggies 17-3, to ensure they left El Paso with a victory.
Senior forward Philip Whittington finished with a career high 29 points for Kent State, while also chipping in 12 rebounds. While freshman guard Fred Cleveland, Jr. scored 21 points for the Aggies in the loss.
Bryson Williams – UTEP – MVP
Jordan Lathon – UTEP – Don Haskins Award
Philip Whittington – Kent State
Fred Cleveland, Jr. – North Carolina A&T
Eyassu Worku – UC Irvine
Souley Boum – 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.
Sun Bowl Association
4150 Pinnacle Street
El Paso, Texas 79902