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Courtesy of UTEP Athletics

H-P Sports in Depth: Miners travel to Alamo City to battle UTSA

UTEP (5-12, 2-3 C-USA) will take aim at its second straight road win when it plays at UTSA (8-8, 4-1 C-USA) at 1 p.m. MST in San Antonio Saturday.

This is the second meeeting between the programs this year; UTSA secured an 83-81 OT win in El Paso in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Jan. 1, 2017. Both teams have been idle since Jan. 14, but the Roadrunners have won three straight and five of their past six games.

UTEP has played back-to-back one-point games, a program first. The Miners lost the longest tilt in school history (88-87, 3OT) on a 35-foot buzzer beater at FIU (1/12/17). Fate was with UTEP two days later as Florida Atlantic’s three pointer at the buzzer danced on the rim before dropping out for a 51-50 Miner win (1/14/17).

Three of the first five league games have been decided by two points or less for the first time at UTEP. That already ties as the most such games in an entire season of conference play at the school.  It previously happened in 1993-94 (Western Athletic Conference), 1990-91 (WAC), and 1976-77 (Intermountain Athletic Conference).

The Miners are in the midst of playing three straight and seven of nine away from home.

Following Saturday’s game, UTEP returns home for WKU (free admission with “Pack The House”, 7:05 p.m. MST, Jan. 26) and Marshall (2 p.m., Jan. 28) before having four straight league road games for the first time since 2005-06 (first year as a member of C-USA).

UTEP is in search of consecutive wins for the first time on the year; it is also attempting to get off to a start of at least 3-3 in league play for the 14th straight season.

This year’s Miners are trying to become the first team in program history to get back to .500 in league play after a 1-3 (or worse) start to the conference slate. In the prior 13 such seasons at the school (2001-02, 1999-00, 1996-97, 1995-96, 1991-92, 1984-85, 1983-84, 1981-82, 1979-80, 1978-79, 1977-78, 1976-77, 1975-76) UTEP was unable to climb back to .500 in conference play at any point on the year.

Fans can listen live to Steve Kaplowitz (play-by-play) call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio or by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Roadrunners (@UTSAWBB) 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 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 (5-1), WKU (5-1) and Middle Tennessee (5-1) share first place with UTSA (4-1) one-half game back.The other 10 teams in the league are .500 or worse. Florida Atlantic (0-6) is only team without a league win.

INSIDE THE SERIES

–  UTSA leads, 20-10, including an 83-81 OT win in the C-USA opener for both squads in El Paso (1/1/17).

–  The series is 4-3 in favor of UTSA since the Roadrunners joined Conference USA

–  The Roadrunners are 11-3 all time vs. UTEP in San Antonio, including 2-1 in C-USA contests. The Miners won 67-56 at the UTSA Convocation Center on Jan. 25, 2014, but UTSA has successfully defended its home court the past two seasons. UTSA toppled #25 UTEP, 69-64, on March 3, 2016, while also picking up a 72-59 triumph on Feb. 21, 2015.

–  The series dates to the 1980’s when both squads were members of the Oil Country Athletic Conference.

 

GETTING TO KNOW UTSA Overall: 8-8 Home: 5-5   Road: 3-3    Neutral: 0-0 | C-USA: 4-1  Home: 1-1   Road: 3-0

–  UTSA lost all five starters from last year’s squad (10-19, 6-12 C-USA). The Roadrunners returned five letter winners while adding six newcomers.

–  UTSA has won three straight (season high) and five of six to hit .500 (8-8) for first time this year.

–  UTSA is among the leaders for C-USA and sports a top-100 NCAA rankings for steals/game (10.7-second/39th), total steals (171-third/61st), free throws attempted (341-second/67th), fewest total turnovers (248-fourth/74th), turnover margin (+2.25-fourth/85th), free throws made (227-fourth/94th), and fewest total fouls (278-sixth/97th). It is also fourth in the league/101st nationally for turnovers forced/game (17.8).

–  Loryn Goodwin is elite in C-USA and has a top-15 NCAA ranking for free throws made (91-second/14th) and attempted (139-first/sixth) and steals/game (3.4-second/10th). Goodwin also tops the squad while also being among the leaders for C-USA and top-100 nationally for points/game (18.1-third/55th) and minutes/game (35.5-fifth/64th).

–  Tesha Smith tops the squad in rebounds/game (7.7-ninth/201st) while ranking second in scoring (12.3). Smith’s scoring totals have been helped by going 61 (seventh C-USA/112th nation) of 91 (fourth C-USA/67th nation) from the charity stripe.

–  Carlie Heineman adds 9.3 points/game, aided by nailing 34.0 percent (34-100) from beyond-the-arc. Heineman is also second on the squad for minutes/game (34.4-seventh/107th).

–  UTSA is in its fourth year as a member of Conference USA; it previously competed in the Oil Country Athletic Conference and Southland Conference. The Miners also were once members in the OCAC.

–  Made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2009; won the SLC regular-season title in 2003 and 2009 while taking the SLC Tournament title in 2009.

–  Notable university alumni include Michelle Beadle (ESPN2 personality), Bruce Bowen (former NBA player for the Spurs) and Kim Spradlin (CBS’ Survivor: One World Winner).

LAST MEETING WITH UTSA (UTSA 83, at UTEP 81 (1/1/17)-OT

  Sparkle Taylor (career-high tying 28 points) and sophomore Najala Howell (career-high 20 points) provided a nice one-two scoring punch but UTSA’s Tesha Smith converted a putback off Loryn Goodwin’s air ball with four seconds left in overtime to send her squad past UTEP, 83-81, in the C-USA opener for both squads at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 1. Zuzanna Puc’s shot to force double overtime just missed.

–  There were 10 ties and 14 lead changes and was the first OT contest to start league play since ‘04-05.

–  UTEP, which trailed by 10 (17-7) five minutes in, forced OT with Howell’s trey with 0.5 seconds left.

–  Taylor made the most field goals (13) by a Miner since 1999.

–  Tamara Seda recorded her second straight and fifth double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) on the year

–  UTEP made eight more field goals (34-82, 41.5 percent) while also shooting a better percentage than UTSA (26-70, 37.1 percent) but the Roadrunners overcame that through a barrage of three pointers (9-21) and living at the free-throw line (22-31). UTEP was 8-10 on free throws despite holding advantages for both points in the paint (40-28) and second-chance points (18-14).

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