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November 19, 2008Randy Culpepper had a career night with 35 points and Stefon Jackson overtook Tim Hardaway as UTEP's third all-time leading scorer as the Miners beat a scrappy Georgia Southern team 96-79 Tuesday at the Don Haskins Center.
Culpepper had 24 of his game-high 35 in the first half, which actually saw the Eagles (2-2) go into the break with a 41-39 lead. He took up the scoring void that was left when Jackson left the game with two early fouls.
"They were a scrappy team that has been to the NCAA Tournament the last three years, so they knew how to keep fighting and get back into games," Jackson said. "Eventually we caught on to what they were doing, settled down and got the win."
Jackson didn't overtake the Miner legend for third place until there were two minutes left in the contest thanks to 24 second-half points. He admitted that the early fouls kept him from being aggressive in the first half.
"In the second half coach Barbee told me to get more aggressive, get back into the game and get us this win tonight," Jackson said.
Head coach Tony Barbee was happy to get his leading scorer back into form, following a sub-par first game and a half.
"It was good to see Stefon come back onto the scene," Barbee said. "It was the old Stefon that everybody is used to and accustomed to."
Jackson added seven rebounds in the second half to go with his scoring outburst, helping the Miners flip a 15-11 rebounding deficit to a 37-34 advantage on glass at nights end.
The tense game turned in favor of the Miners following a hard foul by center Kareem Cooper on Georgia Southern's Sandy Perry. The officials called an intentional foul on Cooper, but the call incited the crowd, which helped lead UTEP on an 11-0 run, taking a 49-47 lead and turning it to a 58-49 advantage for the Miners.
UTEP (2-0) would extend the lead to double-digits and keep the Eagles at arm's length the rest of the evening, leading by as many as 19 late in the contest.
The Miners played the game without starting forward Tavaris Watts, who will miss three-to-four weeks with an MCL sprain. Center Wayne Portalatin also missed most of the second half following an inadvertent elbow from Jackson, which required stitches to his forehead.
UTEP will host former WAC rival UNLV Monday.