Sparkle Taylor | Photo Courtesy UTEP Athletics / Michael P. Reese
UTEP (6-15, 3-6 C-USA) continues a four-game road trip-its longest in 11 years– by playing at Middle Tennessee (13-8, 8-2 C-USA) at 6 p.m. MST/7 p.m. CST Saturday.
The last time the Miners had four straight league road tilts was in 2005-06 (first year in C-USA). The Blue Raiders are tied atop the C-USA standings with Charlotte and WKU at 8-2. They have won 11 straight C-USA home games (dating to last year), and knocked off UTSA, 77-63, (2/2) last time out.
UTEP was upended 74-61, at UAB (2/2), preventing its first winning streak of the season. Middle Tennessee is 8-4 at home (5-0 C-USA). UTEP is 1-4 on the road (1-3 C-USA). The Miners are in the midst of playing seven of nine on the road.
In nine C-USA games the Miners and their opponents are nearly identical with field-goal percentage (UTEP 41.9, Opp. 41.2 percent) and field goals made (UTEP 235; Opp. 234) and attempted (UTEP 561; Opp. 566) yet UTEP has a -5.2 (70.1-75.3) scoring margin. The reason? Foes have scored 32 more points on free throws (UTEP 120-180, 66.7 percent Opp; 152-205, 74.1 percent) and 51 more points on three pointers (UTEP 41-139, 29.5 percent; Opp. 58-166, 34.9 percent). That adds up to a +83 differential in those areas.
In league play the Miners have advantages for points in the paint (+12; 278-266), second-chance scoring (+5; 92-87), fastbreak points (+3; 63-60), bench scoring (+6; 179-173) and rebounding margin +0.6 (40.0-39.4).
An area of concern has been points off turnovers where UTEP stands -39 (123-162) in its nine C-USA tilts. UTEP is hitting 45.9 percent (194-422) of its two-point shots in league play; foes are at 44.0 percent (176-400).
Duke Keith will have the call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio. Fans can also stay up-to-date by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Blue Raiders (MT_WBB) on Twitter. The game can be viewed on ESPN3.
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 top 12 teams (14 in C-USA) will qualify for the single-elimination tournament (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.-UAB) with the top four teams as seeded by regular season standings receiving a bye. The winner will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
– Charlotte (8-2), WKU (8-2) and Middle Tennessee (8-2) share first place in the league while UTSA (6-3) has a half-game lead on Southern Miss (6-4) and ODU (6-4) for fourth. LA Tech (5-5) is alone in seventh place, with Marshall (4-6) and UAB (4-6) one game back. UTEP (3-6), North Texas (3-6), Rice (3-6) and FIU (3-6) are in a four-way tie for 10th place. Florida Atlantic (0-9) rounds out the standings.
INSIDE THE SERIES
– Middle Tennessee leads the series, 2-1, including a 2-0 advantage when playing in Murfreesboro.
– UTEP picked up an 84-73 victory in El Paso last season (1/7/16).
– UTEP fell at Middle Tennessee, 74-53, in 2014-15 while previously being upended, 69-58 (1/15/14).
GETTING TO KNOW MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Overall: 13-8 Home: 8-4 Road 5-4 Neutral 0-0 | C-USA: 8-2 Home: 5-0 Road 3-2
– Middle Tennessee returned four starters and eight letter winners from last year’s team (24-9, 15-3 C-USA) that won the 2016 C-USA Tournament Championships.
– After a demanding non-conference schedule (5-6 record), the Blue Raiders are now rolling. They are 8-2 in league play to sit in a three-way tie with Charlotte and WKU for first place.
– MT is in the upper echelon of the league for free-throw percentage (77.2-second), three-point percentage (36.1-second), free throws made (301-fourth), field-goal percentage (43.5-fourth), assist-to-turnover ratio (+0.94-fourth), turnovers forced/game (17.3-fourth), assists (319-fifth), assists/game (15.2-fifth), scoring defense (63.6-fifth), three pointers made (146-fifth), three pointers/game (7.0-fifth), turnover margin (+1.06-sixth), turnovers/game (16.2-sixth), free throws attempted (390-sixth), scoring margin (+3.8-seventh) and steals (160-seventh).
– It has top-100 NCAA rankings for free-throw percentage (18th), three-point percentage (30th), field-goal percentage (52nd), free throws made (62nd), assists/game (80th), three pointers/game (82nd), three pointers made (90th) and assists (93rd).
– Alex Johnson (20.1 ppg-second C-USA/17th nation) and Ty Petty (16.8 ppg-seventh C-USA/92nd nation) provide an outstanding 1-2 scoring punch.
– Petty (87.4-first C-USA/24th nation) and Johnson (81.8-third/92nd) have been sensational at the line.
– Petty (5.1 apg-second C-USA/46th nation) and Abbey Sisson (3.9 apg-11th C-USA/162nd nation) have piled up the assists. Petty has also been a pest with 1.95 steals/game (eighth C-USA/160th nation).
– Six players earn at least 24.0 minutes/game, but no one else is above 11.0 mpg.
is among the league/national leaders for points/game (20.1-second/17th). She has nailed 151 (third/32nd) of 288 (fourth/136th) for a readout of 52.4 percent (second/49th). Johnson is also 117 (third/11th) of 143 (third/18th) on free throws) for 81.8 percent (third/92nd).
– MT has posted 13 straight 20+ win seasons, reaching the postseason in each of those years. Overall it has appeared in 18 NCAA Tournaments (5-18 record) and four WNITs (4-4 record).
– The program has won 18 regular-season conference championships and 15 league tourney titles.
– The school was founded in 1911.
– Notable alumni include Kelly Holcomb (NFL QB from 1995-2007), James McGill Buchanan (Nobel Prize Winner) and Aaron Hyder (UTEP Athletics Media Relations Assistant).
LAST MEETING WITH MIDDLE TENNESSEE (at UTEP 84, Middle Tennessee 73, 1/7/16)
– Fueled by big scoring nights from Jenzel Nash (career-high tying 26 points) and Cameasha Turner (season-high tying 20 points) and a tremendous team effort at the free-throw line and on defense, UTEP knocked off preseason Conference USA favorite Middle Tennessee, 84-73, at the Don Haskins Center Jan. 7
– The Miners jumped out to an early nine-point lead (12-3, 6:25 1Q) and never looked back on the way to picking up their third wire-to-wire victory of the season.
– The margin was 15 (40-25) at the break, and MT couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.
– UTEP absolutely cashed in at the free-throw line. The 33 (out of 37) free throws made tied as the fifth most in program history. Nash (10-11), Turner (7-8) and Lulu McKinney (7-8) led charge at charity stripe.
– UTEP won the boards (42-34) and held MT to 35.7 percent (20-56).