Late on day two of the Conference USA tournament, host UTEP finally got in on the action, and ran away from Marshall early. The Miners used a 20-2 first half run to turn a thee-point lead into a 38-17 lead, and were never truly threatened the rest of the way. Despite an 18-point halftime deficit, Marshall fought back to close within single digits in the last two minutes, but UTEP still easily held on for the 77-65 win.
Gabriel McCulley's 14 points were actually a game high, as he led six Miners in double figures. Julyan Stone chipped in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds from the guard position, and despite a cold-shooting night (3-for-13), Randy Culpepper still had a productive game, with 12 points and 5 assists.
Johnny Thomas' 13 points led five members of the Thundering Herd in double digit points, while Damier Pitts added 12 points and 9 assists.
With the win, and an upset victory for East Carolina over UAB earlier in the day, the Miners become the odds-on favorites to earn Conference USA's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. They will face the winner of tonight's Rice-Tulsa match-up in the tournament semi-finals on Friday.
Marshall, whose season has included a win over in-state rival West Virginia, will hope to take their 22-11 record to one of the other post-season tournaments.