DALLAS -- UTEP clinched a bye in the first round of the Conference USA tournament by defeating Southern Methodist 59-56 on Saturday.
Papa Dia led Southern Methodist (17-13, 8-8) with 19 points and eight rebounds. Collin Mangrum added 14 points and Mike Walker had 11. The Mustangs will be the No. 7 seed and face No. 10 Rice in a first-round game on Wednesday.
UTEP used an 11-0 run early to take a 13-4 lead and never trailed again.
SMU got a 3-pointer from Walker with 5 seconds left in the game to pull within 57-56, and then fouled immediately. But Culpepper hit both two free throws for the Miners and a last-second 3-pointer by the Mustangs' Robert Nyakundi was off the mark.