RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Texas-El Paso got off the NCAA bubble.
Filiberto Rivera scored 17 of his 32 points in the last 6
minutes to help the Miners earn an NCAA berth with a 91-78 victory
over Boise State on Saturday night in the championship of the
Western Athletic Conference tournament.
"We know we're dancing now," said Rivera, the tourney MVP who
had eight assists and made 11 of 12 free throws -- going 8-for-8 in
the final 2:15.
John Tofi added 21 points, Omar Thomas had 15 and Giovanni St.
Amant 13 for the second-seeded Miners (27-7), who shot 67 percent
from the field in the second half to claim their seventh win in a
"We knew if we got our job done, there would be no ifs," Tofi
Coby Karl had 24 points, and Jason Ellis added 16 for the
eighth-seeded Broncos (16-18), who upset top-seeded Nevada and
Fresno State to become the lowest seed ever to advance to the WAC
"They just outplayed us," Ellis said.
The Miners are 21-0 when scoring 70 or more this season. Their
27 wins are the most since they went 27-7 and reached the final 16
in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
Coach Don Sadler believed they deserved an NCAA berth even if
they didn't win the postseason title after finishing second in the
league behind regular-season champ and 24th-ranked Nevada.
"If what they say is true, they would take the 65 best teams
and we were one of them. We had faith in them (the selection
committee)," Sadler said. "But believe me, I'm glad we are not
particularly worried now."
The Broncos hit five of their first seven from the field, but
only five of their next 21 and had six turnovers in the first 13
minutes of the game. They finished with 15 turnovers to UTEP's
"It hurts, but I'm proud that we got this far," said Ellis,
who became the 16th Bronco in school history to top 1,000 career
Boise State coach Greg Graham said he expects UTEP to make some
noise in the NCAA Tournament.
"Whoever they get in the tournament, they can matchup with,"
Graham said. "Their biggest plus is they can play any style. They
can play fast or in the half court. They always take care of the
ball and they can score from any position," he said.
UTEP led 41-31 at the half and opened a 61-41 lead when Tofi was
fouled on a basket inside and converted a 3-point play to cap an
11-2 run with 12:34 left.
Boise State followed with 10 straight points, including six free
throws from Karl, to pull to 61-51 with 9 minutes remaining.
"We felt magic with 6 to 9 minutes to go," said Karl, son of
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl.
But St. Amant hit from behind the arc, and Miguel Ayala
connected from 19 feet to help push UTEP's lead to 68-53 with 7:20
Ellis scored nine in a row and Karl hit a 3 to cut it to 76-67
at 3:59. But Thomas made two free throws and Rivera hit a 3 for an
81-67 lead with 2:43 left.
Rivera made all eight free throw attempts and St. Amant hit both
of his down the stretch to seal the win. Rivera was 9-of-16 from
the field, including three 3s.
"Fili doesn't score unless we need him to score," Sadler said.
"He's the best there is. ... It's no secret. El Paso knows it and
the league knows it. Now the rest of the country is going to find
out just how good Fili is."