Two of the hottest teams in Conference USA – UTEP and Middle Tennessee – collide on Saturday at 6 p.m. for “Noche Latina” in the Don Haskins Center. UTEP (7-14, 5-4 C-USA) has won five of its last six games to rise to sixth place in the league standings.
Middle Tennessee (20-3, 10-0 C-USA) has been at the top from the very beginning and is riding a 10-game win streak, ninth-longest in the country. The game will be nationally televised on the American Sports Network.
UTEP players will be wearing Mineros jerseys for “Noche Latina.”
UTEP is 4-0 in C-USA home games this season, and 47-12 in C-USA home games under coach Tim Floyd. UTEP is one of three teams still unbeaten at home in league play this season, along with Middle Tennessee (5-0) and UAB (4-0).The Miners are 76-17 overall in C-USA home games.
UTEP has won 20 of its last 21 league home games dating back to the 2014-15 season.
ABOUT MIDDLE TENNESSEE
– The Blue Raiders have parlayed last year’s NCAA Tournament bid and stunning upset of no. 2 seed Michigan State into a stellar 2016-17 season. Middle Tennessee is atop the C-USA standings with a perfect 10-0 mark, 20-3 overall and riding a 10-game win streak.
– The Blue Raiders have two of the league’s top returning players in junior guard Giddy Potts (15.6 ppg) and senior forward Reggie Upshaw (14.5 ppg), but their top scorer to date has been transfer JaCorey Williams (17.3 ppg). The Arkansas import is in his lone year of eligibility with Middle Tennessee and is shooting 52.2 percent from the floor while also averaging 7.5 rebounds.
– Middle Tennessee is tops in C-USA in field goal percentage (.487), steals (7.2 spg), turnover margin (+3.4) and assist/turnover ratio (1.5).
– The Blue Raiders rate 10th nationally in winning percentage (.870), 11th in turnovers per game (10.6), 14th in assist/turnover ratio, 22nd in field goal percentage, 23rd in turnover margin (3.4), 27th in scoring defense (63.7 ppg) and 34th in scoring margin (+10.6 ppg).
– The Blue Raiders own the league’s top road record at 7-1 with the lone setback coming at VCU (80-77) on Dec. 17.
– The Blue Raiders own the league’s top road record at 7-1 with the lone setback coming at VCU (80-77) on Dec. 17. Middle Tennessee is 5-0 on the road in C-USA play with four of the victories coming by 10 points or more. The lone close call came at Rice on Jan. 5 (80-77).
– UTEP and Middle Tennessee have split four previous meetings.
– The Miners made 12-of-16 three pointers in topping the Blue Raiders, 83-70, in the only matchup between the teams at the Haskins Center on Jan. 31, 2015.
THE LAST MEETING
– Darnell Harris scored 21 points, including a crucial layup with 1:24 remaining, as Middle Tennessee made plays down the stretch and slipped past UTEP, 78-72, on Jan. 7, 2016 in Murfreesboro.
– Harris’ bucket put the Blue Raiders up 74-70 after Earvin Morris missed a three-pointer that could’ve given the Miners the lead. UTEP again pulled within two (74-72) on two free throws by Lee Moore with 26 seconds remaining, but Giddy Potts found Reggie Upshaw for a layup to break the Miner press. After Omega Harris missed a three-pointer, the Blue Raiders’ Perrin Buford closed it out with free throws.
– Moore scored 20 points, and Terry Winn posted 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Hooper Vint added 12 points.
– Buford had 15 points and eight rebounds for Middle Tennessee, and Upshaw recorded 12 points and 12 boards.
– The Blue Raiders made their first four three-point attempts, and six of their first nine, to bolt to a 26-14 lead midway through the first half. Trailing by 10 (30-20), the Miners closed the half with a 14-7 run to get within three (37-34). Moore connected on a three-pointer with three seconds left to make it a one possession game.
– UTEP led twice in the second half, at 40-39 (17:23 mark) and 47-45 (15:02 mark). Middle Tennessee scored the next six points.
– The Blue Raiders went ahead by nine points (70-61) with 7:45 remaining after completing an 8-2 run. They were up by eight (72-64) with under five minutes to go before UTEP mounted one last rally.
– Moore scored the next six points to make it a two-point game before Harris and Upshaw came through in the clutch.
– The Miners were outrebounded 44-39 (25-20 in the second half) and yielded 12 second-chance points, six in each half.
– Middle Tennessee made four more three-pointers (nine to five), but UTEP finished 21-for-26 at the line to the home team’s 11-for-19.
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 went 35-25 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.