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Tag Archives: utep basketball

C-USA Basketball Championships Moving to Frisco, Texas

Conference USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod announced today the 2018 and 2019 Conference USA Men’s & Women’s Basketball Championships will be hosted at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, in partnership with the University of North Texas, the Dallas Cowboys and Visit Frisco.

Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research at The Star will be the presenting sponsor of the 2018 C-USA Basketball Championships, which are scheduled for Wednesday, March 7 through Saturday, March 10, with all 22 games – 11 men’s and 11 women’s games – being held at The Star. The conference champions receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

“We are really excited about the Conference USA Championships moving to Frisco,” said UTEP men’s basketball coach Tim Floyd.  “It’s the second-most ideal location for us outside of El Paso.  With our fans being able to drive to Dallas, plus the large alumni base that we have all over the state, we would hope for a tremendous turnout of UTEP supporters.”

“Frisco is a great venue for the Conference USA Championships,” said UTEP women’s basketball coach Kevin Baker.  “The quality of basketball that will be on display is reason enough to attend, but Frisco also offers a tremendous geographic location with restaurants and hotels all within walking distance of the arena.  It’s a terrific place for student-athletes and fans to have a memorable experience.”

Frisco will be the eighth location to host the C-USA Men’s Basketball Championship and the 13th host city for the C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship.  UTEP hosted the 2011 and 2014 Men’s and Women’s Championship.

Ticket information will be announced this fall.

Baker Finalizes UTEP Women’s Basketball Coaching Staff

Nicole Dunson (UTSA), Michael Madrid (San Jacinto College) and Lori Morris (Southwestern College) will venture to the Sun City to join the UTEP women’s basketball program as full-time assistant coaches, head coach Kevin Baker announced Tuesday.

The group brings wide-ranging experience to a UTEP program that has produced the third-highest winning percentage in the state of Texas since 2006-07.

“I am beyond excited about the coaching staff that we were able to put in place,” Baker said. “I consider this to be an all-star cast of coaches. All three of our new staff members worked hard to build their careers the old fashioned way. They earned it. My goal was to surround myself with the most talented, hardest working, and well connected coaches available. I feel that we now have a coaching staff in place that will rival any other program in the nation.”

A bio on each of the individuals, along with a quote by Baker, follows below.

Nicole Dunson

UTSA, 2005/2007

Dunson joins UTEP after spending the past four years as an assistant coach with Conference USA rival UTSA. She oversaw the guard development while also aiding in the day-to-day responsibilities with the squad.  She helped the Roadrunners make a smooth transition into C-USA; they piled up 54 total wins in that time frame while also garnering a fourth-place finish (2014-15) and a seventh-place showing (2016-17).

Prior to returning to her alma mater, Dunson enjoyed a successful two-year run as the head girls’ varsity basketball coach at Richard King High School in Corpus Christi. She guided her charges to the 2011-12 District 28-5A Championship in addition to a berth in the state playoffs in each of the seasons. The Corpus Christi native also was selected to coach in the 2013 CBCA All-Star Game.

Her initial head coaching experience came at the helm of San Antonio’s Hartlandale High School girls’ basketball program. She also was the head junior varsity track & field coach while also serving as a health and physical education teacher. Dunson embarked on her coaching career as head coach for the girls U14 Shooting Stars Basketball AAU program in 2006.

As a student-athlete Dunson played two years with UCF before transferring to UTSA. She sat out the 2002-03 season due to NCAA transfer rules and the following campaign while recovering from a right knee injury. Dunson proved to be worth the wait, accounting for 8.8 points/game while draining 42 percent from 3-point range in her first year. Upon the conclusion of her senior season she was chosen as the 2005-06 Southland Conference Women’s Basketball Student-Athlete of the Year. She drilled 44.1 percent from distance to place 18th nationally. Moreover she garnered the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar award in 2006 and was named a CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VI honoree. To this day Dunson holds the UTSA single-season and career mark in 3-point field goal percentage.

Dunson earned her degree in biology from UTSA in 2005 before going to secure a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in sports psychology two years later.

“Everything about Nicole Dunson screams winner and success. Nicole is the type of coach who has worked for everything she has ever gotten in the game of basketball. She was a very hard working and successful player that battled injuries and overcame them. She cut her teeth at the high school level and earned a place on staff at UTSA.  From there she became a fantastic recruiter and on-the-floor coach. The amount of impact she will have in our program will be immeasurable. Nicole is one of the most talented up-and-coming coaches in the country.” – UTEP head coach Kevin Baker

Michael Madrid

Eastern New Mexico, 1998

Madrid has an impressive resume with ample experience at both the high school (10 years) and college levels (13 years). Most recently he put together a record-setting run in two years with San Jacinto College while forging a combined record of 46-20. In 2016-17 the squad rolled to a mark of 24-9 while making the NJCAA Tournament for the first time in the college’s history. San Jacinto went 22-11 in 2015-16 and earned the Region XIV Tournament Runner-up honors, which at the time was the farthest any women’s basketball team at the college had ever advanced. The squad knocked off nationally-ranked Trinity Valley to secure the spot in the title tilt before ultimately falling to Blinn College.

Prior to this tenure at San Jacinto, he won 24 games in his first opportunity to serve as a head coach over two season with Paris Junior College. Immediately beforehand he was an assistant coach at Texas Woman’s University for a trio of seasons, helping the Pioneers win their first Lone Star Conference tournament championship in any sport and advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association South Central Region tournament.

His coaching career started at New Mexico’s Portales High School, which culminated with the squad taking home the 2001 Class 3A championship. After one year with Lubbock Estacado High School as a boys’ football, track, and basketball coach, he coached boys’ basketball for two years at Lubbock High School. Madrid then served five years-one as a graduate assistant and four as an assistant coach- at Lubbock Christian University. The team advanced to the NAIA National Championships Tournament all five years, including being the national runner-up in 2005-06. It also won the 2006-07 Sooner Athletic Conference title.

Madrid earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Eastern New Mexico University in 1998 before receiving his master’s degree in sports administration in 2001. He also holds a master’s degree in education administration from Lubbock Christian University. Madrid and his wife, Sammie, have a daughter (Ryan).

“Michael is the total package. He is a talented recruiter and a very accomplished head coach. He started out in the high school ranks and worked his way up the ladder. Michael has consistently signed outstanding players throughout his career and has a solid grasp on what wins games at the collegiate level. Michael will help our program on the floor tremendously, on the road recruiting quality players, and in the community at large.UTEP head coach Kevin Baker

Lori Morris

University of San Diego, 1984/Azusa Pacific, 1990

Morris has spent the past two seasons as head coach for Southwestern College, but jumped at the opportunity to get back into the DI ranks. She was an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator for two years at Air Force (2013-15), worked with the CSU Fullerton program for a year (2012-13) and spent four season at Louisiana (2008-12), three of which as the associate head coach.

 

Before her time with ULL Morris was the head coach at Southwestern Junior College for one year (2007-08). In addition to the standard duties commensurate with the position, she was responsible for conditioning, weights, study hall and grade checks. She also taught Basketball Theory, Basketball Activity, Film and Intercollegiate Basketball at SWJC. Morris was also extremely involved with the community, and even opened a basketball player development class for high school players along running mini clinics.

Prior to entering the collegiate ranks Morris had an outstanding 20-year run as the head coach of the Montgomery High School girls’ basketball team from 1987-07. She assumed the position after serving as an assistant coach in 1986-87. She developed 18 players who went on to compete at either the junior-college or university level. Morris guided MHS to Metro League Championships in 1990, 1995, 1996 and 1997, Mesa League Championships in 2002 and 2005 and the Southbay Championship in 2007. MHS also secured a pair of runner-up accolades in the California Interscholastic Federation Division. She was voted as a coach of the year on multiple occasions.

Morris was a standout player at San Diego (1980-84), concluding her career ranked second all-time in assists (480). Morris continues to rank second in helpers, while also garnering top-10 placement in the career records for assists per game (4.2/3rd), field goal attempts (1,070/5th), steals (177/5th), steals per game (1.55/9th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46/9th). She paced the Toreros in assists all four years, including 162 in 1981-81 (third in USD single season) and 129 in 1983-84 (fifth in USD single season).

She received her bachelor’s degree in language arts from San Diego in 1984 and earned her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in administration from Azusa Pacific in 1990.

“Lori Morris is the kind of coach that any staff in America would be fortunate to bring on board. Lori brings over 30 years of experience to the table as a high school coach, junior college coach, Division I recruiting coordinator, and a Division III head coach.  Lori has coached all over the country and has built up a network of coaches and a trusted coaching tree that one must have to be successful at this level. Lori has great energy and work ethic which benefit our program and our players.”- UTEP head coach Kevin Baker

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Thirty-Five UTEP Student-Athletes to Graduate on Saturday

Thirty-five past and present UTEP student-athletes will receive their diplomas at spring commencement on Saturday (May 13) in the Don Haskins Center.

The list includes 13 representatives from the football program, five from soccer, three from women’s basketball, three from men’s track and field, two from men’s basketball, two from rifle, two from softball, two from volleyball, and one each from men’s golf, women’s golf and women’s track and field.

Of the 35 graduates, 25 have earned placement on the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll (minimum 3.0 grade point average) during their careers, and seven have been recipients of C-USA Academic Medals (minimum 3.75 GPA).

Spring 2017 UTEP Graduating Student-Athletes

Brittney Adams (Women’s Track & Field)

Has been a part of two C-USA Indoor Championship teams … member of the distance medley unit that won back-to-back conference titles …  Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Dominic Artis (Men’s Basketball)

Second Team All-Conference USA in 2017 … first player in school history to lead the team in rebounding, assists and steals … one of only four players in Conference USA history to tally 400 points, 150 rebounds, 150 assists and 50 steals in a season … ranks fifth in school history in assists including 187 in 2016-17, third-most in the UTEP record book … member of the 2016 C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Alexa Bain (Soccer)

Four-year starter on defense who helped UTEP post a record of 48-25-11 … started 64 of 76 games played, earning more than 5,000 minutes on the pitch … efforts aided the Miners in notching 33 shutouts for her career, including a single-season school-record tying 11 in 2016 … four-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Marketing major.

 

Bri Barreiro (Soccer)

Recorded 10 goals and 10 assists for 30 points while playing more than 5,000 minutes in her career … started 69 of 76 games played, including all 22 as a senior … helped UTEP post a combined record of 48-25-11 during her four years … two-time C-USA Women’s Soccer All-Academic Team member … four-time recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal and four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … management major.

 

Tyler Batson (Football)

Three-year letterwinner … saw action in 36 games as a wide receiver … led the team in yards per reception (22.8) in 2016 … during junior season, caught 21 passes for 365 yards with three touchdowns and a team-leading 18.8 yards per catch … posted a career-best 143 yards and a pair of scores, including a career-long 76-yard touchdown, during a win over Florida Atlantic in 2015 … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Cosmas Boit (Men’s Track & Field)

Four-time All-Conference USA and 2016 All-Region honoree … member of the 2014 C-USA Indoor Championship team … two-time C-USA Cross Country Championship team member … Member of the 2016 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Criminal Justice major.

 

Cedric Click (Football)

Played in 48 games for the Miners …  tallied a total of 30 tackles, five pass breakups and one fumble recovery … as a sophomore posted 92 yards on five kickoff returns and a career-long return of 30 yards versus San Diego State … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Aleah Davis (Soccer)

Garnered All-League and All-Region accolades in all four years, making her the first Miner to achieve the feat … started every game (82) of her career … ranked tied for third at UTEP for game-winning goals (10) and tied for eighth in assists (17) … compiled more than 100 community service hours in her career … voted to the 2016 NSCAA Senior women’s College Scholar All-America team and the C-USA Women’s Soccer All-Academic team … recipient of the 2017 “Golden Miner Award” … four-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … kinesiology major.

 

Frederik Dreier (Men’s Golf)

Two-time Conference USA Golfer of the Year (2015-16, 2016-17), only the third player in C-USA history to garner the award in back-to-back years … has played in 46 tournaments for the Miners, compiling a 72.3 scoring average … led the Miners to their first conference title in 32 years this season … four-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Marketing major.

Derek Elmendorff (Football)

All-Conference USA Freshman Team member in 2014 … has played in 33 games, making 29 starts at right guard … part of an offensive line that led Conference USA in fewest sacks allowed in back-to-back seasons … efforts helped the Miners average 185.5 rushing yards per game and score 20 rushing touchdowns last season … has one year of eligibility remaining in 2017 … Criminal Justice major.

 

Jake Flaggert (Men’s Basketball)

Has played in 93 games for the Miners, making 31 starts last season … led Conference USA in charges drawn for the second straight year in 2016-17 and has 57 in his career … has one year of eligibility remaining in 2017-18 … two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Marketing major.

 

Taylor Grohmann (Softball)

Won nine games during her career on the mound for UTEP, including a victory on Senior Day May 7 …  registered her first career hit on Senior Day and scored a run … posted a 5-3 record in 2016, helping lead the Miners to the Conference USA Tournament … Kinesiology major.

Amber Herrera (Women’s Golf)

Played in 29 tournaments for the Miners … top finish was a tie for fourth place at the New Mexico dual match in February of 2015 … former president of UTEP’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee … two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Interdisciplinary Studies/Education major.

 

Carnell Horn (Men’s Track & Field)

Member of the 2013 C-USA Outdoor Championship team … member of the 4x400m relay that qualified to the 2014 and 2015 NCAA West Regional Preliminary … recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal in 2013 and three-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Biological Sciences major.

 

Alvin Jones (Football)

Second team All-Conference USA in 2017 … has 241 tackles with a year of eligibility remaining in 2017 … led the team in tackles in back-to-back seasons, notching 93 in both 2015 and 2016 … has 10.5 career sacks and 29.5 career tackles for losses … registered career-high 16 tackles in a pair of games … Communication major.

 

Lawna Kennedy (Women’s Basketball)

Junior college transfer who helped UTEP win the 2016 C-USA regular-season championship and make a run to the quarterfinals of the WNIT … played in 60 career games, including 36 starts, while earning 14.8 minutes/game … scored more than 250 points and grabbed better than 175 rebounds … health promotion major.

 

Jessica Kinder (Rifle)

Four-year team member who had career averages of 555 in smallbore and 582 in air rifle … recorded the second-best air rifle average (586) on the team in 2016-17 … fired a 592 in air rifle to tie for the ninth-best in program history at the 2017 Patriot Rifle League Championships … recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal in 2015 and four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … kinesiology major.

 

Anthony Kyles (Football)

Played in 20 games, making five starts at right guard … part of offensive line that led Conference USA in fewest sacks allowed for back-to-back seasons … efforts helped the Miners average 185.5 rushing yards per game and score 20 rushing touchdowns last season … Member of the 2015 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Lindsey Larson (Volleyball)

Has played in 118 matches and 434 sets for the Miners … led the team in assists (642) and service aces (24) as a senior while finishing her career with 2,677 assists, 71 service aces and 317 blocks … named second team All-Conference USA in 2016 … four-time recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal and five-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Civil Engineering major.

 

Mack Leftwich (Football)

Was the starting quarterback in 11 games for the Miners … as a sophomore, led UTEP in passing yards (1,228), touchdown passes (nine), completions (105), attempts (192) and passing efficiency (120.8) … threw for 231 yards with a pair of scores during a victory over Rice in 2015 … four-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Nicole Lindsay (Soccer)

Played in 81 games, including 55 starts, while securing more than 4,700 minutes of playing time … helped the Miners forge a record of 48-25-11 during her four years … played all over the pitch, contributing two goals and seven assists for 13 points … two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … marketing major.

 

Sky Logan (Football)

Has played in 22 games, making 12 starts at the defensive end position … registered a total of 63 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, four pass breakups and one forced fumble … has one year of eligibility remaining this fall … two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Jay Mattox (Football)

Four-year starter that played in all 49 games for the Miners … finished his collegiate career tied for first in program history with 137 PATs … also rates no. 2 among kickers with 257 points, and no. 3 with 40 field goals made … concluded his senior campaign ranked second on the team in points (54) and finished 39-of-40 on PATs … member of the 2014 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Communication major.

 

Lulu McKinney (Women’s Basketball)

Graduating in just three years and has one season of eligibility remaining … helped UTEP win the 2016 C-USA regular-season championship and advance to the WNIT quarterfinals … has played in 92 games with 45 starts … already ranks sixth all-time at UTEP for three-pointers made (107)… two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Communication major.

 

Sterling Napier (Football)

Has played in 36 games for the Miners … was utilized in multiple blocking schemes last season, helping the team average 185.5 rushing yards with 20 rushing touchdowns … hauled in his first career touchdown last year versus Florida Atlantic … coming back for his senior season in 2017 … member of the 2015 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Criminal Justice major.

 

Hannah Nicholson (Soccer)

Two-year letterwinner for the Miners before her career was derailed by injuries … in 2014 contributed one goal and five assists for seven points … four-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Mechanical Engineering major.

 

Danielle Pearson (Softball)

Ranks second on UTEP’s all-time wins list … hurled over 490 innings and recorded over 200 strikeouts for the Orange and Blue … also collected over 80 hits during her career, while showing power at the plate with three home runs and 45 RBI … Member of the 2016 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Organizational & Corporate Communication major.

 

Erik Ramirez (Football)

Saw the field in the Miners’ 52-24 victory over North Texas last season … also played in two games as a freshman … has one year of eligibility remaining in 2017 … recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal in 2014 and four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Chemistry major.

 

Kevin Rincon (Men’s Track & Field)

Has ranked among the top-10 in the javelin at the C-USA meets … helped the Miners to a second-place finish at the 2015 C-USA Outdoor Championships …. five-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Kinesiology major.

 

Brendan Royal (Football)

Played one season for the Miners, seeing action in all 12 games in 2016 … recorded 33 tackles, 1.5 tackles for losses, an interception and three pass breakups … opened the campaign with three pass breakups, tied for third-most in a game in program history, during a victory over rival NM State … recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal in 2016 and two-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Monthserrat Serna (Rifle)

Four-year competitor who had a career average of 531 in smallbore and 556 in air rifle … set a career-high in air rifle (569) at the 2016 NCAA Qualifier …three-time recipient of a Conference USA Academic Medal and four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Biological Sciences major.

Sparkle Taylor (Women’s Basketball)

Prolific scorer who finished second all-time at UTEP in field goals made (530) and third in points (1,352) … also tied for sixth in free throws made (272) … 2017 All-Conference USA second team honoree and 2016 C-USA Sixth Player of the Year … helped UTEP win the 2016 C-USA regular-season championship … member of the 2017 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll … Criminal Justice major.

 

Nick Usher (Football)

A three-year starter who saw the field in 49 games … last season he started all 12 contests and led the team in tackles for losses (8.0), sacks (5.5) and quarterback hurries (five) … rated third on the team with 77 tackles and added two pass breakups and a blocked kick … finished career tied for no. 10 in school history with 12 sacks … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Adrian Ward (Football)

Played two seasons for the Miners, starting in 22 games after transferring from Chabot College … earned 2004 All-WAC first team honors after tallying 59 tackles, 12 pass break-ups and five interceptions … led the Miners to eight wins and the Houston Bowl … registered a total of 98 tackles, 18 deflections and eight picks at UTEP … was chosen in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings … Multidisciplinary Studies major.

 

Naomi Whitehair (Volleyball)

Played in 260 sets over 87 matches in three years as a Miner … tallied 415 digs in her career … notched a career-high 16 digs against South Alabama as a senior … Health Promotion major.

UTEP Alumni form ‘Glory Road Boys’ Basketball Team; Need Fan Votes to Make $2m Nat’l Tourney

Several well-known Miners have formed an alumni basketball team and, with the support and votes from UTEP fans, hope to make a national tournament that pays the winners $2million for the win.

The team, known as the ‘Glory Road Boys’, is made up of five former players: Omar Duran, Earvin Morris, Brent Murphy, Ioana Tofi and Jason Williams.  The team is looking to make the The Basketball Tournament (TBT), a national basketball tournament to be held this summer, similar in structure to the NCAA’s annual college basketball tournament.

The main difference, according to the TBT website, is 64 teams (with 16 in each region) are either selected based on their fan vote totals or play their way into the tournament.

The top nine (9) vote-getters in each region as of June 1 @ 12p ET get in automatically. Six (6) additional teams in each region will be chosen at-large.

The final team in each region will play-in through the TBT Jamboree in Philadelphia, set for June 17th and 18th.

The winner-take-all $2 million purse is divided among the team, their coach, a booster, a top fan and 99 other fans who voted their team into the 64-team tournament.

The bio for the ‘Glory Road Boys’ reads as follows:

“We are very excited for the opportunity to represent our University and the great city of El Paso. Our identity comes primarily from our school’s great basketball tradition. The fact that UTEP is the only school from Texas to win a National Championship is astonishing considering all the great Universities and tradition of great players from Texas. Also for the fact that the Disney movie Glory Road demonstrated how the 1966 team broke color barriers and changed basketball is very appealing to some who might not know the story behind it. We also have a strong competitive players that are elite on their teams overseas and want to represent a great basketball alumni group of UTEP.”—Omar Duran, GM

Should the team get the required number of fans signed up and voting, the team would be part of the West Region.  To sign up to vote and support the team, click HERE.

Kevin Baker Named UTEP Women’s Basketball Head Coach

UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull announced on Monday that Kevin Baker has been appointed as the eighth head coach in UTEP women’s basketball history.

“We are very pleased to introduce Kevin Baker as our head women’s basketball coach,” Stull said.  “We had tremendous interest nationally for this position, and it was really difficult going through the process of narrowing it down to the type of person that we wanted to lead this program.  In the end, no one could match the level of success that he has achieved, winning over 300 games and setting school records for victories at every stage of his coaching career.  He is a personable and energetic young man and a great fit for UTEP and the El Paso community.”

“I’d like to thank Dr. Diana Natalicio and Bob Stull for giving me the opportunity to lead the UTEP women’s basketball program,” Baker said.  “I am truly honored to take the reins of a program that has enjoyed so much success.  Coach Adams had an amazing run here for 16 years.  She really put UTEP women’s basketball on the map, and my goal is to build on what she has already accomplished.”

Baker comes to El Paso from Angelo State University, where he posted a combined record of 50-14 in two seasons (2015-17).  Baker was also the head coach at the University of Texas Tyler from 2012-15, fashioning a 72-16 mark.  His combined college coaching record is 122-30.

Overall Baker is 344-131 in a coaching career that has also taken him to four high schools in the state of Texas — Commerce (1997-98), Palestine (1998-2000), Nacogdoches (2000-03) and Copperas Cove (2004-07).  He has set school records for wins at every stop of his career, and has taken every school to the playoffs with a total of five district championships.  He is an eight-time Coach of the Year.

More recently, Baker’s teams captured back-to-back conference championships at UT-Tyler and Angelo State.  He led Angelo State to a 26-6 mark in 2016-17, including the school’s first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance and a runner-up finish in the NCAA South Central Regional.

Baker has led both a Division II (Angelo State) and Division III (UT-Tyler) school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

His 2016-17 Angelo State squad was ranked as high as second in the nation, earning him Conference Coach of the Year honors for the fourth consecutive season.  The Rambelles were 24-8 in 2015-16, reaching the NCAA Regional semifinals.

He compiled marks of 18-9 (2012-13), 27-4 (2013-14) and 27-3 (2014-15) in three seasons at UT-Tyler.  The Patriots won the American Southwest Conference title in 2014 and 2015, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in 2014.  He was ASC Coach of the Year all three seasons.

Baker spent the previous five years (2007-12) as an assistant coach at Division II West Texas A&M University, where he was part of a run to 120 victories including a 30-4 campaign in 2009-10.  The Lady Buffs were a top-10 team nationally all five seasons, were ranked fourth in 2007-08, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament on four occasions.

West Texas A&M won back-to-back-to-back Lone Star Conference titles (2008-10) and made an Elite Eight appearance in 2009.  West Texas A&M also posted the no. 5 team GPA in the country in 2007-08.

In 10 seasons as a high school head coach, Baker put together three seasons with 29 or more wins.  He was a combined 222-101 in the prep ranks.  Highlights included a 29-4 mark at Palestine High School (4A) in 1999-2000, a school-record for victories, and District, Bi-District and Area championships.

His 2002-03 Nacogdoches team was 30-4, a school-record for wins, with District and Bi-District titles.  His final high school team, at Copperas Cove (2006-07), was 32-3 with Area and Bi-District championships and a Regional Semifinal berth.

Baker received his Bachelor of Science degree (Kinesiology) and Masters of Education from Stephen F. Austin in 1994 and 1996, respectively.  He began his coaching career as an assistant girls basketball coach at Hudson High School in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas in 1994.

The Kevin Baker Career Head Coaching Record

1997-98            Commerce HS            18-10

1998-99            Palestine HS            18-13

1999-00            Palestine HS            29-4

2000-01            Nacogdoches HS            5-22

2001-02            Nacogdoches HS            19-13

2002-03            Nacogdoches HS            30-4

2003-04            Copperas Cove HS            24-10

2004-05            Copperas Cove HS            24-10

2005-06            Copperas Cove HS            23-12

2006-07            Copperas Cove HS            32-3

2012-13            UT-Tyler            18-9

2013-14            UT-Tyler            27-4

2014-15            UT-Tyler            27-3

2015-16            Angelo State            24-8

2016-17            Angelo State            26-6

Career Totals                        344-131

UTEP Basketball Team to Prep for 2017-18 Season in Costa Rica

The UTEP men’s basketball team will look to blend a mix of returning talent with promising newcomers when it plays three preseason games in Costa Rica this August.

“The significance of this is that we have a terrific group coming in, seven new players that will be added to our core group of returners,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said on Wednesday.  “This trip gives us a tremendous opportunity to bring these young guys along and get them better.”

The trip is slated for Aug. 15-20, and fans are invited to join the team in Central America.  Travel packages will be available for purchase, with details forthcoming.

Floyd said the teams the Miners face will be composed of professionals from Central and South America, as well as “the best players Costa Rica can offer.”

College basketball teams are permitted to take a foreign tour once every four years.  This will be the first foreign tour by a UTEP men’s basketball squad since the 2005-06 club traveled to Spain and the Canary Islands.

Perhaps the best thing about the tour, besides the cultural and game experience, is the fact that the Miners will get 10 days of practice in El Paso ahead of time.

“It gives our team a chance to get off to a better start than we had last year,” Floyd said.

The 2016-17 Miners rallied from a 2-13 start to finish 13-4 and tie for third place in Conference USA with a 12-6 mark.

UTEP’s Matt Willms Granted Sixth Year of Eligiblity by NCAA

UTEP Athletics officials have been notified by the NCAA that 7-1 center Matt Willms has been granted a sixth year of eligibility and will return for the 2017-18 season.

“We think this is a big deal,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “It gives Matt his first offseason in five years to actually be able to work out, lift and improve his game. This is when players get better. He has enormous potential and getting him back is huge, both for him and for us. I’d like to thank the NCAA for their thorough review of his case and for making the right decision.”

Willms has played only three full seasons (2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17) in a career wracked by injuries. He has undergone two major surgeries, one for a torn labrum in his shoulder and another for a fracture of the nevicular bone in his foot.

Last year, coming off the foot surgery, Willms enjoyed his finest season as a Miner, averaging 11.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while leading Conference USA in field goal percentage (.591). He scored in double figures 18 times and was named Conference USA Player of the Week on Jan. 30 after averaging 26.0 points and making 24-of-31 shots (77.4 percent) on the Miners’ road trip to WKU and Marshall.

Willms will enter his senior year with career totals of 693 points, 416 rebounds and 98 blocked shots with a .571 (274-for-480) field goal percentage. He has played in 95 games and ranks ninth in school history in blocks.

NCAA rules permit players five years to play four. Willms redshirted in 2012-13, meaning he has been on campus for five years already. UTEP officials had to submit paperwork to the NCAA detailing Willms’ situation and requesting the sixth year, but nothing was a given.

“When I first found out that I may not get my eligibility back next year, it started going through my head. What if I can’t play? Where do I go from here? Do I go overseas? Would I even have an option there,” Willms said. “Once the process started, they said it’s difficult [to get the sixth year] and it put more doubt in my mind. I got a call from coach today telling me that I’ve been accepted. The first thing I thought about is the amount of talent we have next year, and being a senior and being able to lead the team. It means a lot to me to come back and wear the Miner jersey for one last season.”

Willms is already mapping out his offseason goals.

“One thing that I want to do is put on at least 15 pounds,” he said. “Another thing is to work on my foot speed, get my foot speed back, work a little more on my post moves, moves I can counter and go from there. Those are my goals, just to try to get better and once the new guys come in, give them some pointers on what to work on and what to expect.”

Farewell Keitha: Coach Adams, AD Stull release Statements on Departure to Wichita

Both UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull and Women’s Basketball Coach Keitha Adams released statements Wednesday night regarding Adams leaving UTEP for Wichita State University.

UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull:

“Keitha was one of my first hires and has been with us for 16 years. She has done an absolutely unbelievable job. We hate to see her leave, but understand the desire to go home. We can’t thank her enough for everything she has done for UTEP Athletics and the women’s basketball program. She has enjoyed unprecedented success and has graduated all of her players. You won’t find a more quality person anywhere. The Wichita community will fall in love with her, just like El Paso has. She is a great coach and a great friend and we wish her the best.”

***

Keitha Adams:

“First off I want to thank Dr. Natalicio and Bob Stull for the opportunity and support in my tenure at UTEP. I want to thank my coaches for your efforts and hard work in our journey together. To all of the support staff and numerous individuals who helped our program succeed, thank you!! To all of the UTEP players, I’m so grateful and thankful to have you in my life. To the Miner fans, I will always cherish our memories and moments in the Don Haskins Center. I will always hold dear your support to me and our players. UTEP took me away from my home in Kansas. El Paso became my new home for 16 years. It is only for a unique and special opportunity that I would ever leave UTEP. Wichita State University is 36 miles from my hometown. It’s a special opportunity for me to share my passion for this game with my family and friends. I will always cheer for the Miners, I will always love El Paso. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God Bless and Go Miners!!”

Tables Being Sold for 43rd “Dinner With the Miners”

Tables are now on sale for the 43rd edition of “Dinner With the Miners,” the annual awards banquet for UTEP Athletics. This year’s event, sponsored by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club, will be held on Thursday, April 27 at the Wyndham El Paso Airport.

Coaches and student-athletes will be in attendance for each of UTEP’s 16 Division I sports, with Most Valuable Athlete awards being presented.

UTEP’s Male and Female Athlete of the Year will also be announced as well as the recipient of the Golden Miner Award, presented to UTEP’s top all-around student-athlete based on athletics, academics and community service.

The social hour begins at 5 p.m., with dinner and the program to follow at 6:15 p.m.

Prices are $275 for three seats at a shared table with two student-athletes/coaches, and $500 for six seats at a shared table with four student-athletes/coaches. Funds raised are allocated to the UTEP student-athlete scholarship fund.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call Jim Peak at (915) 581-0490.

Miner’s Miracle Season Ends with 82-56 Loss to Middle Tennessee

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Middle Tennessee turned in a stifling defensive effort and took advantage of 18 UTEP turnovers in ending the Miners’ season with an 82-56, Conference USA Championship semifinal victory on Friday at Legacy Arena.

The Blue Raiders (29-4) avenged a 57-54 loss at UTEP in early February while setting a school record for victories and advancing to Saturday’s title game.  The Miners’ season ends at 15-17.  UTEP started the year 2-13 before finishing 13-4 and tying for third place in C-USA.

“Middle Tennessee is a terrific team,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “If the NCAA does not take them to the tournament should something negative go on tomorrow, there’s a real, real problem with that.  They led our league in basically every statistical category, and those same categories they won tonight – assist/turnover ratio, rebounding margin, defensive points allowed, and they did a great job in all those areas.”

The Blue Raiders scored 25 points off UTEP turnovers.  Middle Tennessee reverted to form following an uncharacteristic performance in El Paso where the Miners scored 15 points off 19 Blue Raider giveaways.

Middle Tennessee also outrebounded UTEP 41-30, with 12 offensive rebounds leading to 10 second-chance points.  The Miners shot 39.2 percent from the field, as Middle Tennessee neutralized senior guard Dominic Artis (six points, 2-for-10 field goals) in his final college game.

“They’ve got a well-coached team,” Floyd said.  “They play well together, they move the ball well, and they force turnovers that other teams in our league don’t.  They forced a lot of turnovers today with our ballclub. I thought our kids tried.  We just weren’t very good today, and it had a lot to do with Middle Tennessee and their approach to the game.”

The Miners led once, at 2-0.  They hung in for the first 10 minutes, trailing 17-12.  Then the Blue Raiders scored six consecutive points – a three-point play by Reggie Upshaw, a three-pointer by Xavier Habersham – and pushed the lead to 11 (23-12).  UTEP got within seven (25-18) on two free throws by Omega Harris with 4:38 remaining in the half.  Middle Tennessee answered with six in a row once again.  At halftime, the Blue Raiders led 37-23.

The Miners fell behind 40-23 to start the second half.  They got within 15 twice, but that was it as the Blue Raiders blew out to a 29-point lead.

Reggie Upshaw, very quiet in the El Paso matchup, led the Blue Raiders with 18 points and eight rebounds. Giddy Potts scored 14, JaCorey Williams 13 and Antwain Johnson 11 off the bench.  The Blue Raiders recorded 16 assists, including a game-high five from Tyrik Dixon, and nine turnovers.  Potts swiped five of Middle Tennessee’s 12 steals, the most by a UTEP opponent this season.

Paul Thomas had an excellent game for the Miners.  He scored 18 points, making 7-of-10 shots and 4-of-6 free throws.  Harris scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half.

Artis, so good during the Miners’ 13-4 run to close out the season, ended his college career with 1,215 points, 484 rebounds, 502 assists and 163 steals.  He is the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounds, assists and steals in a season.   His 187 assists this season are third-most in school history.

UTEP will add a host of reinforcements to a solid nucleus of returning players for 2017-18.  The book closes on a truly inspirational 2016-17 campaign.

“It flipped from being a really, really poor basketball team through the first week in January to a team that was a real problem for people the last couple of months,” Floyd said.  “It’s a real testament to guys taking responsibility for their inadequacies, coaches as well, and not pointing the finger, making the determination to self-improve and what can come from that when you’ve got a common goal in mind.  I was extremely, extremely proud of our team.”

The Miners finish the season with Harris averaging 17.0 ppg, Artis 15.0 ppg, Matt Willms 11.4 ppg and Thomas 8.6 ppg.  Jake Flaggert took 33 charges.  Deon Barrett, Kelvin Jones and Trey Touchet grew in leaps and bounds off the bench.

“I came in here every single day the last two months knowing that it was a team committed to getting better,” Floyd said.  “It transferred into wins, and it transferred into great camaraderie.  Dominic Artis should get the lion’s share of the credit for that, being a senior.  He chose not to play for himself, but to try to keep us organized and play with heart.  I thought he did that.

“I told the guys in the locker room, I don’t recall one of my teams where I could look at the seven guys who were playing a lot at the end of the season and say, ‘Each one of you guys improved as much as any guy that I’ve had on any team.’  Every single guy got better, and they were fun to work with.”

HP Sports in Depth: Miners Look to Continue Miracle Season Friday vs Middle Tennessee

The Fourth seed UTEP Miners (15-16) meet top seed Middle Tennessee (28-4) in the semifinals of the 2017 Conference USA Championships.  The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network with tip-off at 10:30 a.m. MT on Friday morning.

The Miners advanced in the tournament with an 86-76 quarterfinal victory over Rice on Thursday.  Earlier in the day, Middle Tennessee upended UTSA 86-70.  The winner will advance to the championship game on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. MT/7:30 p.m. CT (CBS Sports Network).

UTEP has won 13 of its last 16 games, while Middle Tennessee has won 18 of its last 19; with the lone loss during that stretch coming at UTEP (57-54) on Feb. 4.  The Miners overcame a 17-point second half deficit in that game to tie for their biggest comeback victory under coach Tim Floyd.

UTEP is 13-11 in C-USA Championship games, reaching the semifinals in 2006, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2017 and the final in 2010 and 2011. The Miners’ all-time conference tournament record is 40-26 (includes a forfeit against Hawaii in the 1996 WAC Tournament).  UTEP captured WAC Tournament crowns in 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 2005.

UTEP is 8-4 all-time as a no. 4 seed in conference tournaments.  The Miners are trying to make the final for the fourth time in six appearances as a no. 4 seed.

SERIES NOTES

–    UTEP leads the series 3-2.
–    The teams are meeting in the C-USA Championship semifinals for the second time in three years.  On March 13, 2015, the sixth-seed Blue Raiders upset the no. 2 seed Miners, 53-50, in Birmingham.  The Miners led for much of the game, and 35-31 with a little over 10 minutes remaining before the Blue Raiders went on a game-changing 11-0 run.
–    Players on this year’s rosters who appeared in that game are Giddy Potts, Edward Simpson and Reggie Upshaw for Middle Tennessee, and Omega Harris and Matt Willms for UTEP.  Upshaw had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Middle Tennessee.

THE DAVIS/FLOYD CONNECTION

–    UTEP’s Tim Floyd and Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis were on the same coaching staff at Idaho for two seasons (1986-88).  Floyd was the head coach and Davis was an assistant at the time.
–    The Vandals were 35-25 during those two years and were runner-up in the Big Sky Conference in 1987-88 while finishing 19-11.
–    When Floyd left to take the New Orleans job for the 1988-89 season, Davis took over as head coach and orchestrated back-to-back 25-6 campaigns.  Idaho appeared in the NCAA Tournament in both 1989 and 1990 under Davis, losing a first-round game each time.

UTEP 57, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 54 (FEB. 4)

–    Matt Willms scored nine of his 14 points in a game-ending 19-6 run as UTEP handed Middle Tennessee its lone conference loss of the season at the Haskins Center.
–    UTEP trailed 39-22 with 14:08 remaining.  The Miners outscored Middle Tennessee 35-15 over the final 13:46, holding the Blue Raiders to six field goals during that span.  Middle Tennessee scored one field goal in the final six minutes, when it was outscored 15-4.
–    The Miners made 9-of-10 foul shots in the second half and 15-for-18 for the game, none bigger than Willms’ two with eight seconds left that pushed a 55-54 lead to 57-54.
–    After falling behind by 17, the Miners scored 11 consecutive points to pull within six (39-33).  Middle Tennessee extended the lead back to double digits and was ahead 48-38 when Brandon Walters scored with 7:26 remaining. Then the Miners mounted their run.
–    Willms scored five points in a 9-0 run that turned a 50-42 deficit into a 51-50 lead.  When Omega Harris hit a jumper with 2:27 to play, the Miners had their first lead since it was 1-0.
–    JaCorey Williams, who was a one-man wrecking crew for Middle Tennessee with 24 points and 10 rebounds, put the Blue Raiders ahead 52-51 on a jumper with 2:09 to go. He gave them a 54-53 lead by splitting two free throws with 37 seconds left.
–    The Miners did the rest of their damage at the foul line, as Harris made two free throws with 22 seconds left and, after Edward Simpson missed a three-pointer, Willms made two more with eight seconds remaining.  Middle Tennessee’s Giddy Potts missed a three pointer at the buzzer.
–    Dominic Artis collected 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals.  Paul Thomas had 10 points and six rebounds.
–    Williams made 10-of-15 shots and 4-of-5 free throws for Middle Tennessee.  But the Blue Raiders’ other stars, Reggie Upshaw (zero points, one rebound in 23 minutes) and Potts (nine points, 3-for-11 from the field) were held in check.
–    Middle Tennessee uncharacteristically turned it over 19 times, which was the equalizer on a night where it shot 48.9 percent to UTEP’s 41.3.
–    The Miners trailed 27-16 following a miserable offensive first half where they shot 20.8 percent (5-for-24), 0-for-7 from three-point range.  In the second half, UTEP shot 63.6 percent led by Willms, who was 5-for-7 from the field.

UTEP NOTEBOOK

–    Dominic Artis led the Miners in points (26), rebounds (10) and assists (six) for the second time this season against Rice on Thursday.  The first time was versus Southern Miss on Feb. 11.  Overall it marked the fourth time he has achieved the feat in two seasons at UTEP.
–    Artis’ .769 (10-for-13) field goal percentage against Rice was his best in a Miner uniform; previous best (minimum 10 attempts) was .688 (11-for-16) at Marshall on Jan. 28.
–    Artis scored a season-high 26 points versus Rice.  It was the second-most points in his college career behind the 33 he scored versus Marshall on Feb. 4, 2016.
–    Artis’ next assist will be the 500th of his collegiate career.
–    Artis has scored in double figures in 13 straight games, a career-long streak.
–    Omega Harris picked up his ninth 20-point game of the season on Thursday, most by a UTEP player since Randy Culpepper had 17 in 2010-11.
–    Against Rice, Jake Flaggert drew his 32nd charge of the season and the 56th of his career.
–    Trey Touchet scored in double figures off the Miner bench for the third time in four games versus Rice.
–    The Miners’ 86 points versus the Owls were their most in a C-USA Tournament game.  The previous best was 85 points twice, against FIU and Marshall a year ago.
–    UTEP led wire-to-wire for the third time this season against Rice.  The Miners also led from start to finish versus the Owls on Feb. 18 in Houston, and on March 4 against Charlotte.

Miners Build Big Lead, Hold On To Beat Rice in C-USA Quarters 86-76

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – UTEP played a dominant first half – racing out to a 49-29 lead – then played through a deluge of foul calls and hung on for an 86-76 victory over Rice in the C-USA Championship quarterfinals on Thursday at Legacy Arena.

The Miners (15-16) played about as well as could be over the first 20 minutes, scoring their second-most points in a half this season and shooting 61.3 percent from the field.  Rice (22-11) shot 26.7 percent and UTEP crushed the Owls on the boards, 25-13.

In the second half, a total of 34 fouls were called – 17 on both teams – and 43 free throws were shot.  Jake Flaggert, Paul Thomas, Matt Willms and Kelvin Jones all fouled out.  Thomas played 15 minutes and Willms played 10.  Ivan Venegas played a career-high nine minutes.

And through it all the Miners survived to meet top seed Middle Tennessee (28-4) in Friday’s semifinals.  The game will tip at 10:30 a.m. MT/11:30 a.m. CT and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

Dominic Artis was simply brilliant for the Miners, scoring 26 points – a season-high – and making 10-of-13 shots.  He added 10 rebounds and six assists.  Omega Harris scored 21 points with six boards.  Willms had 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks in limited playing time.  Trey Touchet scored 10 points off the bench.

Rice was led by Marcus Evans, who scored 21 points.  But 13 of them came at the line.  Once again, the Miners held the Owls’ big three of Evans/Egor Koulechov/Marcus Jackson in check.  Combined they scored 39 points, but were 9-for-27 from the field.  Rice shot 33.9 percent from the game and finished 10-for-28 from three-point land.

“I thought D.A., Omega, Jake and Trey all did a great job of trying to close to their shooters,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “The 10-for-28 [three-point shooting] is something that we can live with in that game.  The 33 percent we gave up from the floor is why we won.

“We had a lot of things that we had to play through tonight.  Our bigs played well, they just didn’t play very long.  We had guy after guy after guy fouling out.  Four guys were out and Ivan Venegas had to play a lot of minutes.  We had guys playing minutes that hadn’t played.  I thought what kept us balanced throughout was the guard play by Dominic and Omega.  They kept us solid.  We made good decisions with the ball in our hands.  We had to play some lengthier possessions and we ended up making shots at the end of those possessions.”

The Miners jumped on the Owls early.  They scored the game’s first nine points and led 14-4 about four minutes in.  Rice battled back and when Koulechov hit two free throws with 6:25 remaining in the half, it was a 29-24 game.  UTEP closed the half with a 20-5 run and the Owls were buried, down 20.

“[The first half] was terrific.  It really was terrific,” Floyd said.  “Matt and Paul were protectors down at the rim and [the other] three guys had the job of just trying to no-catch those guys.  That put them in a drive game and might’ve had something to do with us picking up a foul or two.  But they did an excellent job of putting Evans and Jackson in situations that maybe they hadn’t been in.

“I thought what keyed it all was defensive transition in the first half, getting back and locating those guys because they’re special in that area – catch and shoot Koulechov, catch and shoot Jackson and Evans.  Our bigs did a nice job.”

With Thomas, Willms and Jones all playing five minutes or fewer in the second half, Rice was able to get back in it.  The Owls outscored UTEP 47-37 after halftime and outrebounded the much smaller Miners 20-16.  But they never could get closer than nine points.

The Miners shot 56 percent for the game.  Their 86 points bested the school C-USA Tournament record by one.  They outrebounded the Owls 41-33 and outscored them 38-14 in the paint.  In a surprise, UTEP had an 18-9 edge in bench points against the deeper Owls.

“We rebounded it tonight,” Floyd said.  “I thought Omega had a couple of back-to-back plays in the first half – a lob pass to Matt Willms for a dunk, and then one more pass on the next possession.  He caught the ball in the corner, kicked it back to Trey wide open at the wing.  I thought the whole game was good shot versus great shot, good shot versus great shot.  D.A. was excellent finishing, excellent dishing off of takes, and Omega as well.  It was guard play, and I thought our guards played as well as they have all year.”

UTEP Stands to Make History with Success at C-USA Tournament

When UTEP takes the floor against Rice today in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament, it will mark the culmination of a momentous feat.

That the Miners enter competition at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, after a first-round bye is nothing short of remarkable. UTEP secured the No. 4-seed in the tournament after a disastrous start to the 2016-17 season by reeling off 12 wins in its last 15 games. Should the Miners (14-16, 12-6 in C-USA) continue their hot streak to become C-USA tournament champions — and NCAA tournament participants — it will mark something historic.

No team that has lost 12 consecutive regular season games has made the Big Dance. While the task to become the first won’t be simple, there is reason to believe the Miners — who dropped a dozen consecutive contests from Nov. 20 to Jan. 7 — can waltz their way to the field of 68.

The berth would top Coppin State’s run to the 2008 tournament. The Eagles lost 11 straight regular season games before winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament to earn a spot in a No. 16-seed play-in game against Mount St. Mary’s. The 1998-99 Florida A&M team is the only other squad to make the tournament despite having a double-digit losing streak (10).

“It’s an exciting time of the year, not only for us but the other 11 teams that are going to be in the tournament,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said in statement. “Everybody is hopeful. In our case, we have given ourselves a path that is a little easier, only having to play three games to get to the NCAA tournament versus four.”

That path begins with Rice, which advanced to the second round after beating Southern Miss, 86-75, on Wednesday. The Miners have beaten the Owls 17 times in their last 21 meetings. UTEP most recently beat Rice, 79-71, on Feb. 18 in Houston. The Miners have advanced in seven consecutive C-USA tournaments and eight of the last nine.

Their lone opening-round ouster came as a No. 4-seed against Houston in 2009.

If the Miners advance to the semifinals, they will likely face No. 25 Middle Tennessee. The No. 1-seed Blue Raiders won the C-USA regular-season title with 17-1 conference record (27-4 overall). Their lone blemish? That came in El Paso on Feb. 4 in a 57-54 upset. If UTEP can repeat that success, it would have one more team to go through before giving head coach Tim Floyd his first berth with the Miners in the NCAA tournament.

Floyd has had high-profile detractors during his seventh season in El Paso. Most notable among them were the group of fans holding “Fire Floyd” signs in the Don Haskins Center who were confronted by former UTEP head football coach Mike Price. That came in December, in the midst of the Miners’ losing streak.

The signs vanished as the season progressed, replaced by an unprecedented surge to the league’s upper echelon.

Floyd has ridden the play of his stellar guards, Dominic Artis and Omega Harris, during the turnaround. Both players were named to the All-Conference USA team earlier this week and have been catalysts in

the team’s resurgence. While the Miners have battled through injuries, fielded various lineup rotations and struggled with turnovers, the biggest factor in their climb has simply been improved offensive efficiency. During the losing streak, UTEP was shooting 42-percent from the floor and 29-percent from three-point range.

Since then, the Miners have improved to 49-percent and 35-percent, respectively. Couple that with a nearly plus-4 turnover margin per game during the same period and a newfound doggedness on the defensive end of the floor and you have a team that is poised to do what was once unthinkable.

For Floyd, who gruffly accepted responsibility for the team’s poor play after its Dec. 3 loss to Northwestern State, three more wins could provide a catharsis. His arrival in El Paso in 2010 was largely celebrated by fans who appreciated the link to the school’s illustrious past and thought Floyd’s pedigree would bring immediate success to a team fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance. But his previous six seasons have yielded no conference championships and no wins in the second-tier postseason tournaments his teams have qualified for.

A return to the dance would do well to silence the most ardent critics of the highest paid coach in program history. He deserves credit for keeping his team focused through an arduous season. An NCAA tournament berth makes Floyd, whose contract is up in 2018, deserving of even more.

The first step on the road to those possibilities begins today.

Watch it

• What: No. 4-seed UTEP Miners (14-16, 12-6 in Conference USA) vs. No. 5-seed Rice Owls (21-10, 11-7) in quarterfinal round of Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.

• When, where: 1 p.m. MST today, Legacy Arena, Birmingham, Alabama.

• On TV: American Sports Network, Channel 14-KFOX in El Paso.

• Notes: Winner will face the winner of No. 1-seed Middle Tennessee and No. 9-seed UTSA 10:30 a.m. Friday. If UTEP wins its next three games to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, it would be the first time a team with a 12-game regular season losing streak makes the dance.

Author:  Pablo Villa – Special to the Herald-Post

Old Dominion Ends Miners Season 80-70

BIRMINGHAM, ALA.-  Senior Sparkle Taylor scored the second-most points (32) by a Miner in a league tournament contest but a late run allowed sixth-seed Old Dominion to hold off the upset-minded 11th seed UTEP, 80-70, in an entertaining opening-round game at the 2017 Conference USA Championships presented by MetroPCS at Bartow Arena late Wednesday evening.

The Miners (8-23) led or were tied for 32+ minutes of the contest before the Lady Monarchs (17-13) used a late 12-0 run to spoil the valiant effort. The surge turned UTEP’s 68-63 lead with 6:52 to play in regulation into a seven-point deficit (75-68). Tamara Seda halted the gut-wrenching sequence by sinking two free throws but the damage had been done.

The Lady Monarchs advance to lock up with third-seeded Southern Miss in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. MST/9 p.m. CSTThursday while the Miners conclude their 2016-17 campaign.

UTEP outscored ODU in the first (23-21), second (22-19) and third quarters (16-15) before hitting the wall in the final frame (9-25). Even with the late difficulties, the Miners shot 46.6 percent (27-58) from the floor-compared to ODU’s 39.1 percent (25-64). Problems arose, though, with rebounding (ODU, 41-32) and second-chance points (ODU, 26-8).

“We played hard,” UTEP head coach Keitha Adams said. “Old Dominion has a very good team. I’m really proud of my team; we’ve had a long season but I think we came out, competed and played extremely hard. For a team that’s gone through what we’ve gone through this year, we showed a lot of pride and character with the way we played.”

Taylor nailed a UTEP league-tournament record 13 field goals on 23 attempts while also going 5-5 at the line to finish with 32 points. It was one point shy of the program standard in the event (33 by Jareica Hughes vs. Rice-3/7/08). It marked Taylor’s third 30+ point game this season, which ties Holly Russ (1990-91) as the most in program history. The prolific scorer concludes her career with the second-most field goals made at UTEP (530) and third-most points (1,352).

Sophomore Najala Howell buoyed Taylor with 17 points-her third-highest total this year- but no other Miner had more than six points in the contest. ODU got a big night from 2017 C-USA Player of the Year Jennie Sims (29 points, nine rebounds) while Annika Holopainen (12 points, eight boards) and Gianna Smith (12 points) also reaching double figures.

UTEP asserted itself well, racing out to a five-point lead (14-9, 3:58). Taylor provided a glimpse of what was to come by scoring eight points in the stretch. The Miner advantage remained six (21-15) inside of two minutes of the first frame before ODU splashed home consecutive triples to tie the tilt.

The deadlock was short lived, however, with Seda sinking two free throws late in the frame to give the Miners a small lead (23-21) after 10 minutes of action.

The two sides traded scores in the early stages of the second quarter before Taylor took over. She scored on consecutive trips, showing off her full repertoire of offensive ability, before finding a cutting Lulu McKinney for the lay-up to put UTEP up 10 (33-23, 6:38 second quarter).

The lead remained 10 (43-33) with inside two minutes of the second quarter but to its credit ODU was able to cut that in half (45-40) heading into the locker room.

The Orange and Blue showed tremendous resiliency in the third quarter, answering every run by the Lady Monarchs, to hold a six-point cushion (61-55) heading to the fourth and final frame. UTEP appeared to be in good shape when freshman Zuzanna Puc banked home a lay-up-off a sweet feed from Howell- to lead by five (68-63) with 6:52 left in the contest.

It was not to be, though, with ODU taking advantage of UTEP’s inability to connect on shots down the run.

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HP Sports in Depth: Miners Bounce into Birmingham for C-USA Championship

The UTEP men’s basketball team arrived in Birmingham late Monday night to begin preparations for the 2017 Conference USA Championships Presented by metroPCS.  The Miners (14-16) will face either fifth seed Rice or 12th-seed Southern Miss in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday (March 9) at 1 p.m. Mountain time/2 p.m. Central.

The game will be televised on the American Sports Network and can be seen on KFOX Channel 14 in El Paso.

UTEP has won 12 of its last 15 games and is riding high after securing a first-round bye with a 74-67 victory over Charlotte in the regular season finale on Saturday at the Haskins Center.

“It’s an exciting time of the year, not only for us but the other 11 teams that are going to be in the tournament,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “Everybody is hopeful.  In our case, we have given ourselves a path that is a little easier, only having to play three games to get to the NCAA Tournament versus four.  We have no idea who we’re going to play, but it will be a team that is spirited and talented and very capable of beating us, so we’re going to have to play well on Thursday.”

Rice (21-10) will be a heavy favorite against Southern Miss (9-21) on Wednesday.  But the Owls beat the Golden Eagles twice by a combined four points during the regular season, and had to go overtime to secure a 72-71 victory on Feb. 23 in Houston.

UTEP has enjoyed success as a no. 4 seed in conference tournaments.  In five previous appearances (three in the Western Athletic Conference, one in C-USA), the Miners reached the title game three times as a no. 4 seed and won the WAC title in 1990.  In the Miners’ lone appearance as a no. 4 seed in the C-USA Tourney, they bowed out to no. 5 Houston, 89-85 in overtime, in the 2009 quarterfinals.  The Miners have advanced in seven straight C-USA Tournaments and eight of the last nine.

The Miners have five players who have played in a total of 16 C-USA Tournament games – Jake Flaggert (four), Omega Harris (four), Matt Willms (four), Dominic Artis (two) and Trey Touchet (two).  Artis will be playing in his eighth conference tournament game on Thursday.  He led Oregon to the Pac-12 Tournament championship in 2013.

UTEP has enjoyed a lot of success recently against Rice (17-4 in the last 21 meetings), not so much against Southern Miss (4-8 in the last 12 matchups).  But all history goes out the window in postseason play, and the important thing is that the Miners are feeling good about themselves going in.

“The guys are confident and I think we’re healthy.  That certainly helps,” Floyd said.  “We have won 12 of 15 down the stretch and in the losses, we have been right there with a chance to win.  We know that defense has been our calling card and offensive efficiency of late has been good.  Six turnovers in the last ballgame is a nice stat.  We are certainly looking forward to getting out there and competing.”

The Miners will likely go as far as their guards will carry them this time of the year, and Monday was an exciting day as Artis (second team) and Harris (third team) both earned a spot on the All-Conference USA Team.  Artis, the Miners’ lone senior, will be making his last stand this week.

“That’s terrific for him [making second team All-Conference],” Floyd said.  “He certainly deserves at least that.  He has been a huge part of our turnaround.  He has had some incredible numbers with the 400 points, 150 rebounds, 150 assists and 50 steals.  He has worked as hard as any guy that I’ve had away from the floor at trying to make himself better.  I think he has had a really nice final 12 of 13 ballgames for us.  Defensively is where he has made his most improvement.  He is a terrific rebounder as a point guard, probably the best I have had in that area.”

UTEP won at Rice, 79-71, on Feb. 18, and split two games versus Southern Miss during the regular season. The Miners lost in Hattiesburg (73-65) on Jan. 7 before beginning their 12-3 run, which included an 80-50 rout of the Golden Eagles on Feb. 11 in El Paso.

OPENING TIP

–    UTEP is seeded fourth in the 2017 Conference USA Championships Presented by metroPCS.  The Miners (14-16) will face either fifth seed Rice or 12th seed Southern Miss in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday (March 9) at 1 p.m. Mountain time/2 p.m. Central.
–    The game will be televised on the American Sports Network.  In El Paso, it can be seen on KFOX Channel 14 or over the air CBS 4.2.  Please check local listings for availability on satellite packages.
–    Rice (21-10) and Southern Miss (9-21) will square off in the first round of the tournament on Wednesdayat 1 p.m. Mountain time/2 p.m. Central.  Rice beat Southern Miss twice this season, on Jan. 21 in Hattiesburg (61-58) and on Feb. 23 in Houston (72-71 in overtime).
–    The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to Friday’s semifinals at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time/11:30 a.m. Central.  That game will be shown on CBS Sports Network.  The championship game is on Saturday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time/7:30 p.m. Central (CBS Sports Network).
–    UTEP is 1-1 versus Rice and 1-2 versus Southern Miss in conference tournaments.  The Miners beat the Owls in the 2005 WAC semis (85-77) in Reno, and lost to the Owls in the 2007 C-USA first round (77-74) in Memphis.  UTEP beat the Golden Eagles in the 2006 C-USA quarterfinals in Memphis (66-47), lost to the Golden Eagles in the 2013 C-USA semifinals in Tulsa (85-67), and lost to the Golden Eagles in the 2014 quarterfinals in El Paso (64-56).

C-USA TOURNEY HISTORY

–    UTEP is 12-11 in C-USA Championship games, reaching the semifinals in 2006, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and the final in 2010 & 2011.
–    The Miners’ all-time conference tournament record is 39-26 (includes a forfeit against Hawaii in the 1996 WAC Tournament).  UTEP captured WAC Tournament crowns in 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 2005.
–    UTEP was seeded third in the C-USA Championship  in  2006,  10th  in  2007,  sixth  in  2008, fourth in 2009, first in 2010, third in 2011, eighth in 2012, third in 2013, fifth in 2014, second in 2015 and sixth in 2016.
–    UTEP was also a no. 4 seed in the 2009 tournament.  The Miners lost to no. 5 Houston, 89-85 in overtime, in the quarterfinals at Memphis.  UTEP is 7-4 all-time as a no. 4 seed in conference tournaments.  UTEP was seeded fourth in the 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1999 WAC Tournament (the Miners won the fourth seed out of the Pacific Division in 1999).  UTEP reached the WAC Tournament final three of those four years (1988, 1990 and 1993) and captured the title in 1990.

COACH FLOYD IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

–    UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 28-19 in 21 conference tournaments with three titles and nine berths in the title game.
–    The titles came in 1990 at New Orleans, 1996 at Iowa State and 2009 at USC.  His teams were conference tournament runner-up in 1989, 1991 and 1993 (New Orleans), 1995 (Iowa State), 2007 (USC) and 2011 (UTEP).
–    UTEP has won its first game in the C-USA Tournament every year under Floyd, who is in his seventh season.  Floyd’s teams (including USC from 2007-09) have advanced in the conference tournament in nine consecutive seasons.  The Miners, meanwhile, have advanced in their last seven C-USA Tournament appearances dating back to 2010, and in eight of the last nine years.

SERIES NOTES

–    UTEP leads the Rice series 21-11 and has won 17 of the last 21 meetings between the schools, including seven in a row.
–    UTEP owns a 15-12 advantage in the Southern Miss series, but the Golden Eagles have won eight of the last 12 matchups and seven of the last 10.

UTEP 79, RICE 71 (FEB. 18)

–    Paul Thomas scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and UTEP led from start to finish in a 79-71 victory in Houston.
–    UTEP jumped out to a 16-6 lead, led by as many as 14 in the second half and met every charge by the Owls, who had their five-game win streak snapped.
–    The Miners crushed Rice in the paint, 24-10, and made 9-of-14 three pointers (64.3 percent).
–    Dominic Artis scored 16 points with six rebounds, seven assists and three steals.  Omega Harris scored 15 points with an efficient shooting night (6-for-10 FGs, 3-for-4 3FGs).  Jake Flaggert was 3-for-3 from long range, all in the second half.  Thomas made 7-of-9 shots and added 11 rebounds.
–    Rice’s three big guns — Marcus Evans, Egor Koulechov and Marcus Jackson — combined to score 31 points on 7-for-26 shooting from the field, 4-for-18 from three.

SOUTHERN MISS 73, UTEP 65 (JAN. 7)

–    Omega Harris and Dominic Artis combined for 49 points, but Southern Miss converted 16 Miner turnovers into 24 points and raced to a 73-65 victory in Hattiesburg.
–    UTEP trailed 39-31 at halftime and got down by 11 early in the second half.  The Miners scored the next seven points to make it 48-44, but couldn’t get closer.
–    Another key stretch came midway through the second half when, after Harris’ free throw made it a six-point game (54-48), Southern Miss’ Robert Thomas nailed a three pointer.
–    Finally, with UTEP trailing by six (69-63) and under two minutes left, Artis and Harris missed a series of shots that could’ve made things interesting had they gone down.
–    Harris scored 26 points, and Artis added 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.  Quinton Campbell scored 24 points with 10 rebounds for Southern Miss, and Cortez Edwards added 17 points.

UTEP 80, SOUTHERN MISS 50 (FEB. 11)

–    Dominic Artis scored six of his 20 points during a 16-0 run early in the second half as UTEP thumped Southern Miss in the Don Haskins Center.
–    The Miners made 12 three pointers led by Artis, who was 6-for-9 from long range.  UTEP finished 12-for-23 from beyond the arc and shot 52.9 percent from the field on a night where Southern Miss’ game plan was to take the Miners’ inside game away.
–    The Miners led 41-31 at the half.  Southern Miss cut it to nine (45-36) with 16:48 to play before UTEP went on the 16-0 run to take command.
–    Artis had 10 assists and six rebounds.  Omega Harris scored 17 points and Jake Flaggert hit three threes, the equalizer with Matt Willms and Paul Thomas combining for 13 points (four in the first half).

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