Jackson’s 34 boost UTEP into CBI championship
RICHMOND, Va. (AP)—Stefon Jackson scored 34 points and Texas-El Paso went on a 10-0 run after Richmond closed within two in the second half Wednesday night and the Miners beat the Spiders 81-69 to reach the College Basketball Invitational finals.
UTEP (22-12), in its third season under Tony Barbee, will play Oregon State or Stanford, who played later in the later semifinal, in a best-of-three series beginning March 30.
“My team came out focused and ready to play and to get to the championship of the CBI,” Jackson, the lone UTEP seniors, said. “We executed everything Coach Barbee prepared for us.”
Richmond (20-16) didn’t score for more than four minutes after Ryan Butler’s driving layup pulled them to 58-56 with 7:59 to play. During the drought, coach Chris Mooney was ejected for drawing his second technical foul for arguing what he thought was poor officiating.
David Gonzalvez led the Spiders with 24 points.
“Man, he’s really good,” he said of Jackson, one of the nation’s leading scorers with a 24.3 average. “We knew he was good going right, but I don’t think we had any idea how good.”
UTEP, which outscored Richmond 26-14 at the line, had already rebuilt its lead to 63-56 on three free throws by Jackson and Randy Culpepper’s basket when Justin Harper appeared to score on a dunk for the Spiders. But the officials waved it off, calling Harper instead for a charge, and then compounded Mooney’s frustration by calling a foul on an apparent block by Richmond’s Jarhon Giddings at the other end. As Mooney peeled off his jacket, he was tossed.
“The second one, I didn’t say anything,” Mooney said, adding that he apologized to the team for getting ejected. “I think it’s probably more cumulative if I’m asking for too many calls, but I certainly didn’t swear or raise my voice or anything like that.”
Jackson made both free throws, making it 65-56 with 4:44 to play, and it was over.
Culpepper added 19 points for the Miners.
Giddings scored 10 in his final game as the Spiders’ lone scholarship senior.
The Miners used a 15-5 run to open a 28-16 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. Culpepper had six points in the burst and Jackson four. After the Spiders scored nine straight points to get within 28-25, Jackson scored 10 more in a 14-8 run to end the half.