FILE: UTEP #12 Sparkle Taylor was the 2016 C-USA Sixth Player of the Year for the regular-season champion Miners. She also helped UTEP earn runner-up honors at the 2014 WNIT and advance to the quarterfinals in 2016
UTEP (4-11, 1-2 C-USA) will travel to the “Sunshine State” for its Conference USA road opener at FIU (3-11, 1-2 C-USA) at 5 p.m. MST/7 p.m. EST at FIU Arena Thursday.
UTEP went 1-1 last week, knocking off LA Tech, 69-62, on Jan. 5 before falling to Southern Miss, 79-68, on Jan. 7. The Panthers downed Florida Atlantic, 74-65, at home on Jan. 7. It was FIU’s first home league victory since Feb. 4, 2016. FIU set season highs for points (74), shooting percentage (.467) and steals (15).
The Miners will play three straight and seven of their next nine away from home. Following Thursday’s tilt at FIU, UTEP will lock up with Florida Atlantic at 3 p.m. MST/5 p.m. EST Saturday. The three-game road swing concludes at UTSA at 1 p.m. MST/2 p.m. CST on Jan. 21.
The Miners will then be 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 2006 C-USA play. The Miners are under .500 after three league contests for the first time since 2010 C-USA play (also 1-2).
UTEP is aiming at a start of at least 2-2 in league play for the 15th straight season. The Miners last failed to do so for the 2002 WAC season (1-3 start, finished 1-17), which was Keitha Adam’s first year on the sidelines.
The game will be streamed at beIN Sports, and a tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening.
Fans also have the luxury of listening to Tim Hagerty’s (play-by-play) call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio or by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Panthers (@FIUWBB) on Twitter.
THIS AND THAT ON CONFERENCE USA
– Charlotte (4-0) and Middle Tennessee (3-0) are the only teams without a league loss.
– Florida Atlantic (0-3) and Rice (0-4) are the lone programs without a conference victory.
– Teams play all 13 members at least once, while facing five teams in home-and-home for 18-game slate.
– The top 12 teams 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.
INSIDE THE SERIES
– The Miners lead the series, 4-1, including 4-0 since FIU joined Conference USA.
– The programs are playing a home-and-home series for the second straight year.
– Last year UTEP swept the series, winning in Miami (69-57, 1/23/16) in later in El Paso (70-52, 2/11/16).
– This is the second contest in the series in the city of Miami.
– FIU downed UTEP, 82-38, in a neutral-site tilt back on Nov. 27, 1998.
LAST MEETING WITH FIU (at UTEP 70, FIU 52, 2/12/16)
– UTEP controlled the boards (49-29) and forced 27 turnovers to help propel it to a 70-52 victory against visiting FIU on “National Girls and Women in Sports Day” at the Don Haskins Center on Feb. 12.
– All 14 players who dressed saw action for the Orange and Blue, who never trailed in the contest. Jenzel Nash (13 points), Cameasha Turner (11 points) and Lawna Kennedy (11 points) all reached double figures in scoring to lead the way. Starr Breedlove and Nash shared the team lead for assists (four). Nash also created havoc on defense with five steals.
– The Panthers shot 40.4 percent (19-47) from the floor, compared to UTEP’s 36.9 percent (24-65) but the Orange and Blue compensated thanks to the dominance on the glass and the turnovers forced.