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Zuzanna Puc | Photo Courtesy UTEP Athletics

H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Close Out Regular Season at Charlotte

UTEP (8-21, 5-12 C-USA) will close out the regular season at Charlotte (19-9, 11-6 C-USA) at 5 p.m. MST Saturday.

Regardless of the outcome the Miners will be seeded 11th at the 2017 C-USA Championships presented by MetroPCS (March 8-11), but they’d love to generate some momentum for the league’s pinnacle event.

UTEP’s two-game winning streak was halted with a 87-68 setback at Old Dominion Thursday (3/2) The 49ers enter the match-up as winners of two straight, including a 78-67 conquest of UTSA Thursday (3/2).

This is the lone scheduled meeting on the year between the programs, but it’s possible that they could square off in the C-USA Championships presented by MetroPCS (March 8-11). Charlotte is 9-4 at home (4-4 C-USA). UTEP is 1-8 on the road (1-7 C-USA).

Fans can listen live to Brandon Cohn’s call on 600 ESPN El Paso while also watching online at ESPN3 (subscription required). Updates may also be found by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or 49ers (@CharlotteWBB) on Twitter.

THIS AND THAT ON CONFERENCE USA

–  Teams play all 13 members at least once and face five teams in home-and-home for 18-game C-USA slate.

–  The field is set for the single-elimination 2017 C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship presented by MetroPCS (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.-UAB), but teams are still jockeying for position.

–  WKU (15-2) will be the top seed and Middle Tennessee (14-3) has the second seed locked up. The Miners (5-12) are locked in at 11th and Marshall (4-13) will be 12th.

–  The winner of LA Tech and Southern Miss (Friday) will have the third seed.

–  Seeds four through six (UTEP’s first-round opponent) will be either LA Tech (12-5) or Southern Miss (12-5), and Charlotte (11-6) and Old Dominion (11-6) in and order to be determined.

–  UTSA (9-8) will be between seeds 7-9 while North Texas (8-9) and Rice (8-9) will fall between seeds 7-10.

–  Host UAB (7-10) could be finish anywhere between seeds 8-10.

–  The top four teams as seeded by the regular-season standings receive a bye. The tournament winning will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

 INSIDE THE SERIES (UTEP LEADS, 2-1 OVERALL; UTEP LEADS, 1-0 IN CHARLOTTE)

–  UTEP leads the series, 2-1, with victories in each of the past two seasons.

–  The Miners outlasted Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime to claim the outright 2016 C-USA regular-season championship in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 27.

–  During the 2014-15 campaign UTEP won 75-72 at Halton Arena (2/12/15)

–  Charlotte won the first meeting between the programs, 92-86, in El Paso on Jan. 18, 2014.

GETTING TO KNOW CHARLOTTE

Overall: 19-9                 Home: 9-4   Road 10-3   Neutral 0-2 | C-USA: 11-6                  Home: 4-4   Road 7-2

–  Charlotte returned three starters and six letter winners overall from last year’s team (19-12, 12-6 C-USA). The 49ers earned an at-large bid to the WNIT but were edged by Wake Forest (L, 72-69, 3/17/16).

–  Charlotte has 14 postseason appearances (12 WNIT, two NCAA) in program history.

–  Charlotte is 18-9 this season, and appears poised to play postseason basketball for the 14th time in the past 15 years (no bid in 2015). The 49ers went to the “Big Dance” in 2003 and 2009 while making WNIT runs in the other seasons.

–  After a 3-3 start to the season, Charlotte caught fire to win nine straight and 14 of the next 16 contests. The 49ers then lost four straight (by a combined 12 points) but they’ve bounced back to win back-to-back contests since.

–  Charlotte leads C-USA in blocks/game (5.9) and assists/game (16.9). It is also second in scoring offense (74.0) and field-goal percentage defense (38.9), third in turnovers forced/game (17.9) and turnover margin (+2.5), fourth for 3-point field-goal percentage (34.6), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (30.8), scoring margin (+7.0) and steals/game (9.0), fifth in fewest turnovers/game (15.4), sixth in  rebounds/game (38.5) and seventh in field-goal percentage (43.7).

–  The 49ers have top-100 NCAA team rankings several categories: they are eighth in blocks/game, 16th for assists/game, 37th in scoring offense, 50th for field-goal percentage, 59th in 3-point field-goal percentage, 66th for turnover margin, 75th in turnovers forced/game, 85th for scoring margin and 87th in steals/game.

–  Grace Hunter is fifth in C-USA for rebounds/game (8.2), fifth in defensive boards/game (5.4), seventh for scoring (17.2) and minutes/game (34.6), ninth for blocks/game (0.8) 11th in free-throw percentage (77.3), field-goal percentage (48.3) and offensive boards/game (2.9), Hunter is 89th nationally for field-goal percentage.

–  Lefty Webster is tied third in C-USA for assists/game (5.0), fourth for steals/game (2.4), sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8) and minutes/game (35.9) and 3-point percentage (38.0), tied seventh in defensive boards/game (4.7), eighth for blocks/game (1.0) and in free-throw percentage (79.5), 13th for points/game (13.5) and 14th in rebounds/game (6.3).  Webster has top-100 NCAA rankings for assists/game (47th), minutes/game (62nd), total steals (64th), total assists (66th), steals/game (67th),  and field-goal percentage (97th).

–  Nyilah Jamison-Myers paces C-USA for blocks/game (2.0), is eighth in field-goal percentage (50.8), tied eighth for offensive boards/game (2.8), 19th in rebounding (5.9) and 27th in scoring (11.3). Jamison-Myers has top-100 NCAA rankings for blocked shots/game (46th) and total blocked shots (52nd).

–  Ciara Gregory leads C-USA in 3-pointers/game (3.3), 3-point makes (90) and attempts (246).. She is also 11th for scoring (14.2) and 3-point percentage (36.5). Gregory is among the top-100 nationally for 3-pointers/game (sixth), 3-point attempts (ninth) and makes (ninth) and percentage (93rd).

–  Laia Raevntós is tied for third for assists/game (5.0), fifth in C-USA in steals/game (2.3) and 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5). Raevntós is among the top-100 nationally for assists/game (47th), steals/game (72nd), total assists (74th) and total steals (85th).

–  Notable university alumni include Clay Aiken (Broadway star/American Idol runner-up), John Maine (former MLB pitcher) and Robert F. Hull, Jr. (CEO of Lowes).

LAST MEETING WITH CHARLOTTE: at UTEP 94, Charlotte 91 (OT),  Feb. 27, 2016

–  UTEP forced 30 turnovers and got big efforts from several players to outlast Charlotte, 94-91, in double overtime to claim the outright 2016 Conference USA regular-season championship in front of a roaring 4,012 fans at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 27.

–  Jenzel Nash enjoyed a monstrous game (career-high 31 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals in career-high 47 minutes) to lead the way for the Miner, who pushed their overall win streak to seven while halting the 49ers’ undefeated surge at five.

–  Lulu McKinney buoyed Nash with 18 points, including two big triples in the second overtime period, while Starr Breedlove (13 points) and Cameasha Turner (12 points) also hit double figures in scoring.

–  Charlotte shot 51.6 percent (33-64) from the floor and won the boards (50-36) but was done in by the relentless pressure from the Orange and Blue.  UTEP had a 43-2 advantage in points off turnovers, in addition to a notable 34-3 cushion for bench scoring.

–  The visitors looked poised to hand UTEP its first home loss of the year, leading 72-70 with 15 seconds to play in regulation and in possession of the ball. Nash had other ideas, though, coming up with a steal and drawing a foul. She calmly sank both charity stripe tosses to tie the tilt. Charlotte called timeout to set up a play but misfired at the buzzer.

–  There were just eight points total in the first overtime, and Nash’s potential game-winning shot wouldn’t drop with one tick left to send it to double overtime. Nash nailed a triple to get the scoring started in the second extra period before a free throw by Laia Raventos made it 79-77 UTEP with 3:15 on the clock.

McKinney then took over, draining clutch triples on consecutive possessions to give the Miners some much-needed breathing room (85-78, 1:42 to play).

–  Charlotte continued to battle down the stretch but never got closer than three the rest of the way.

–  It was the first double-overtime game at the school since 2005-06.

–  It marked the second game in program history with both teams scoring 90+ points.

GOING BACK IN TIME (at Old Dominion 87, UTEP 68, March 2, 2017)

.-  Sparkle Taylor continued her blistering play offensively with a 27-point outburst while Tamara Seda (13 points) andLulu McKinney (10 points) also reached double figures in scoring but it wasn’t enough in a 87-68 setback at Old Dominion Thursday.

–  Jennie Simms poured in 30 points to go along with seven assists to lead the charge for the Lady Monarchs. ODU also received big games from Destinee Young (14 points, 14 rebounds) and Ashley Jackson (12 points, six rebounds).

–  UTEP took good care of the basketball (13 turnovers) while forcing 17 giveaways that led to 18 points, kept it competitive on the glass (ODU, 38-33) and shot 39.4 percent (28-71) but the home side compensated for all that with a tremendous shooting night. The Lady Monarchs nailed 60.7 percent (37-61) from the field, including 76.9 percent (10-13) in the third quarter and 66.7 percent (10-15) in the final frame.

–  ODU built a 34-20 lead midway through the second quarter but UTEP fought to get within seven (39-32). Unfortunately the Lady Monarchs used a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to push out by 15 and UTEP couldn’t get closer than 10 the rest of the way.

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