HONOLULU — University of Texas-El Paso shot 51 percent and held Clemson to 30 percent in a 61-48 victory Thursday in an opening-round game of the Diamond Head Classic.
Michael Perez scored 16 of his career-high 25 points in the second half to lift the Miners (5-5) to their third consecutive win. C.J. Cooper came off the bench to score 11 points, all in the second half.
K.J. McDaniels scored 13 points and Milton Jennings 10 to lead Clemson (6-5).
UTEP advances to today’s semifinals, and Clemson will be in the consolation round.
“This gives our guys some confidence,” Miners coach Tim Floyd said. “We needed that significant win, and this was a great win for us.”
UTEP made 7 of 20 3-pointers and sank 10 of 12 free throws.
“We just kept trying to explain to our guys (that Clemson is) such a great defensive team that there’s just not going to be any avenues to drive it the middle of lane with their bigs, and it took us about 30 minutes to figure it out,” Floyd said.
The Tigers led 29-24 early in the second half, but UTEP used a 17-11 run capped by Perez’s three-point play to seize a 41-40 lead with 12:49 left.
“We turned the ball over too much in the first half,” Floyd said. “We turned it over 12 times in the first half, but just four in the second.”
Perez, a sophomore guard, had been averaging only 10.7 points per game. He made 8 of 12 shots, including 3 of 6 on 3-pointers. Perez was 6 of 7 on free throws to go with three rebounds and two assists in a full 40 minutes.
Clemson made only 3 of its 21 3-point attempts and committed 11 turnovers to six assists.
A 7-0 Miners run midway through the second half extended their lead to 51-42 on a pick-and-roll play from Jacques Streeter to Cedrick Lang. Lang also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, and Gabriel McCulley and John Bohannon added six boards apiece. Streeter finished with seven points and seven of his team’s 13 assists.
The Miners led by 14 points after a finger roll by Cooper inside the final minute.
UTEP freshman swingman Julian Washburn, who entered as the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game, left with a shoulder injury with about 8 minutes to play in the first half. He did not return, and according to the Miners’ Web site, he’s out with an AC sprain in his shoulder.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Tigers, who went scoreless for nearly 6 minutes to open the game.
Former Laney standout Rod Hall played 24 minutes but finished with only two points and four rebounds. North Augusta’s Brian Narcisse came off the bench, recording a rebound and one point.