The Sun Bowl Association and WestStar Bank are pleased to announce the teams coming to El Paso for the 58th Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
Joining the UTEP Miners in the Don Haskins Center this year will be UC Irvine, Kent State and North Carolina A&T.
“We have another competitive tournament lined-up for college basketball fans to enjoy,” said Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas. “This tournament has become a tradition and the history of teams and players that have come through El Paso is tremendous. Our basketball committee, which is led by Barry Kobren, continues to seek out and work towards bringing quality teams to the Don Haskins Center.”
The tournament, which will be held, Monday and Tuesday, December 16-17, in the Don Haskins Center, brings in teams that posted 31, 22 and 19 wins, which includes two top-100 teams per RPI.
UC Irvine returns to the Sun Bowl Invitational for the third time after winning the tournament in 2015. The Anteaters have won four conference titles in the last six years, including a Big West Conference championship in 2018-19 to help finish with a final RPI of 61.
UC Irvine reached the NCAA Tournament last year and picked up a big win over No. 4 Seed and Big 12 Champion Kansas State to reach round of 32.
Kent State, which is led by head coach Rob Senderoff, who is the all-time winningest coach at Kent State, will also make its third appearance in the Sun Bowl Invitational. The Golden Flashes won the tournament in 1999 and fell by three points to UTEP in the title game in 2014.
Kent State finished the 2018-19 season with a 22-11 record and made it to postseason play for the 17th time in 21 years.
North Carolina A&T is making its first appearance in the Sun Bowl Invitational and is led by Coach Jay Joyner, who completed his third season at the helm. The Aggies finished 13-3 in MEAC play last season, finishing the season undefeated at home in conference play for the second straight year.
‘This year’s tournament should be one of our most competitive with three visiting teams having won at least 19 games last year, and it’s also great having an NCAA tournament team who won 31 games,” said Tournament Director Barry Kobren. “Everyone is anticipating a vastly improved UTEP team with their infusion of new talent.”
The UTEP Miners are led by head coach Rodney Terry, who enters his second season as the team leader. The Miners return sophomore Efe Odigie, who averaged 12.7 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per contest while being named to the 2018-19 All-Conference USA Freshman team. He is the first UTEP player to finish the season averaging a double-double since Terry White accomplished the feat (10.1 ppg/10.2 rpg) in 1981-82.
Odigie is one of nine Miners to average a double-double in a single season. In total, the Miners will return four scholarship players from last season and have two incoming freshmen players. There are also two sophomores, who sat out last season due to transfer rules. There are five juniors on the team for the 2019-20 season.
UC Irvine Anteaters
- Big West Conference Champions (Four Conference Titles in last six years)
- 31-6 overall record and 15-1 in conference play
- #61 in Final RPI
- The ‘Eaters set a slew of school records in 2018-19 including the most wins (31) and longest winning streak (17 games) in program history
- UCI is ranked fourth nationally in field goal percentage defense
- The team ranks ninth in rebound margin (+7.0)
- Led by Coach Russell Turner who was named Conference Coach of the Year for the third time
Kent State Golden Flashes
- 22-11 overall record and 11-7 in MAC Conference play (Most wins since 2009-10 season)
- 17th Postseason in 21 Years (CIT Tournament)
- Third Appearance in Sun Bowl
- No. 90 in Final RPI
- Head coach Rob Senderoff has led the team to postseason in all eight of his seasons as head coach including NCAA tournament in 2017
North Carolina A&T Aggies
- 19-13 overall and 13-3 in MEAC Conference play (2nd Place)
- The Aggies 13 conference wins are the most they have had since going 16-0 during the 1987-88 MEAC regular-season
- The Aggies improved 17 games from the 2016-17 season to the 2017-18 season coming one game shy of tying UTEP’s 18-game improvement in 2003-04
- 8-21 overall record and 3-15 in Conference USA play after the 2018-19 season
- Returning C-USA All-Freshman team member Efe Odigie
- Added two new assistant coaches in Kenton Paulino and Arturo Ormond
- Miners have won 31 Sun Bowl Invitational tournaments