EL PASO, Texas -- Derrick Caracter slammed in the winning basket, then cut down the nets with his UTEP teammates at the Don Haskins Center.
Not a bad way to cap a regular-season championship in Conference USA.Caracter scored the final six points for UTEP, including a winning dunk with 1 second left that gave the Miners (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) a 52-50 victory over UAB on Saturday night."I'm still not where I want this team to be," Caracter said. "I could have lost the game, too."Reserve guard Myron Strong scored 15 points and Caracter had 13 for UTEP (24-5, 15-1), which rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half.The Miners held the Blazers (23-7, 11-5) to one field goal in a span of 10:47 while whittling away at the lead. Caracter's two free throws tied it at 48 with 2:46 remaining, and his layup put UTEP ahead 50-48 with 43 seconds to go.After Aaron Johnson's jumper tied it with 6 seconds left, the Miners called timeout. Julyan Stone then passed to Caracter for the winning dunk."I just tried to go up there with as much power as possible," Caracter said.UTEP players and coaches rushed the court with a second left, prompting UAB coach Mike Davis to argue in vain for a technical foul. Order was restored during a Blazers timeout, but UAB was unable to get off another shot.Johnson led the Blazers with 16 points and five assists. Elijah Millsap added 12 points and 14 rebounds, but UAB managed only three field goals in the final 17 minutes.UTEP coach Tony Barbee said his team's offense was "anemic" in the first half."Our defense kept it relatively close so we could be within arms' length, and a big part of that was Myron Strong," Barbee said. "Our defense I thought was spectacular in the second half."Barbee said the winning play was one the team has consistently run in practice. He credited Caracter with keeping it going as Stone got tied up in traffic along the sideline and looked for an open man.UTEP had already wrapped up the Conference USA regular-season championship and will be the top seed in the league tournament.The Miners will play the winner of a first-round game between Southern Methodist and Central Florida. UAB faces either Southern Mississippi or Tulane.Neither squad was particularly accurate from the field. UTEP shot 37.5 percent, while UAB finished at 36 percent.UAB shut down Randy Culpepper, the Miners' leading scorer this season. Culpepper had only seven points -- two in the second half after getting in early foul trouble.