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FILE: SE Oklahoma State Vs UTEP

H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Bring Confidence into Round One of I-10 Battle

Despite dropping a tough 78-77 decision at New Mexico last week, the UTEP men’s basketball team gained some confidence that it hopes will translate into a winning performance against I-10 rival NM State on Tuesday in the Haskins Center.

The Miners (2-5) and the Aggies (8-2) will lace ‘em up for the first time in 2016-17 at 7 p.m.  The game will feature a special performance by El Paso native and “The Voice” contestant Elia Esparza, and free rally towels for the first 5,000 fans.

UTEP capped a tumultuous week by overcoming a 21-point deficit versus the Lobos, but couldn’t hang on to a three-point lead in the final 30 seconds and fell just short of the upset.

“We had gone through some adversity, losing a key player [Terry Winn] and then having to suspend another key player [Omega Harris],” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We had the ability to practice for a while [during a nine-day break between games] and we did make some strides.  We made some improvements against a very good New Mexico team.  A young player got his head up in Deon Barrett.  We desperately needed a third scorer that could come in and help us make some baskets.  It felt good as a group in the locker room even though we lost a tough one, because we’re making strides.”

Barrett was named Conference USA Player of the Week on Monday after scoring all 25 of his points in the second half versus the Lobos.  It was something for the Miners, and Barrett, to build on.

“We’re hoping that he shows the confidence to get himself in tough situations, which that was an extremely difficult situation — it was his first road game as a collegiate player — to step in and make those kinds of shots,” Floyd said.  “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a player make 25 points in a half, much less a freshman.  But he knows that there are other ways he can help our team.  If the ball isn’t going in the goal, there are still other things that he can do and we certainly have other guys that can make goals.”

Tuesday’s matchup is the 212th between the Miners and the Aggies.

“I think our guys that have been here, they understand [the rivalry],” Floyd said.  “I don’t think our freshmen have any clue. But they’ll learn quickly that it does mean something, that New Mexico State is going to come over here with a very talented team and they’re going to play exceptionally hard in our building.”

The Aggies have won six in a row and haven’t lost since Nov. 18.  The Miners have lost four in a row.  But fans have seen enough over the last 100 years to know that the records don’t mean much in the rivalry.

NM State has three players with double-figure scoring averages – senior guard Ian Baker (14.0 ppg), sophomore guard Sidy N’Dir (13.7 ppg) and junior guard Braxton Huggins (12.9 ppg).  The Aggies’ most productive inside players have been junior forward Jemerrio Jones (9.9 ppg/6.7 rpg) and sophomore forward Eli Chuha (9.8 ppg/7.3 rpg).

“They’ve got a couple of really good guards,” Floyd said.  “Baker came in here and just kicked us around last year.  I think they are exceptional in transition offense, both on made field goals and made free throws and also on misses.  I think they’re doing a terrific job defensively.  They’ve got great size and length. This is a team that looks like an NCAA Tournament team.”

Tuesday is round one.  Round two will be on Dec. 30 in Las Cruces, as the teams will square off after Christmas for just the second time in 15 years.

Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

The Battle of I-10 is sponsored by FirstLight Federal Credit Union.

Miners in Depth:

OPENING TIP

– UTEP (2-5) plays its second straight rivalry game when it hosts NM State (8-2) in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on Tuesday at 7. The Miners lost at New Mexico, 78-77, on Dec. 7.
– The last time UTEP played New Mexico and NM State back-to-back was in December of 2006.
– The Miners are trying to stamp out a four-game losing streak, and a three-game skid at the hands of their I-10 rivals.
– NM State is riding a six-game win streak and hasn’t lost since Nov. 18.
– UTEP will play at NM State on Dec. 30, the latest meeting between the schools since the 2012-13 season (Feb. 23). It marks just the second time in 15 years that the schools will square off after Christmas.
– The Miners are opening a four-game homestand, which ties their longest of the season, against NM State. UTEP will also have a four-game set within Conference USA play Feb. 2-11.

ABOUT NM STATE

– NM State is in its first season under the direction of former assistant Paul Weir, who took over for Marvin Menzies when he left to become head coach at UNLV.
– The Aggies, who also lost Pascal Siakam to the NBA, have won eight of their first 10 games.
– This is NMSU’s fourth road game of the season; the Aggies are 1-2 with a win over San Diego (56-51) and losses to Colorado State (64-61) and New Mexico (72-59).
– The Aggies have three players with double-figure scoring averages – senior guard Ian Baker (14.0 ppg), sophomore guard Sidy N’Dir (13.7 ppg) and junior guard Braxton Huggins (12.9 ppg).
– Huggins ranks 27th nationally in three-point field goal percentage (.481).
– The Aggies’ most productive inside players have been junior forward Jemerrio Jones (9.9 ppg/6.7 rpg) and sophomore forward Eli Chuha (9.8 ppg/7.3 rpg).
– NM State is averaging 76.4 points per game. The Aggies have scored 80 or more on five occasions, including in the last two outings versus Long Beach State (93) and New Mexico (84).
– The Aggies’ six-game win streak was tied for 15th-longest in the country entering the week.

SERIES HISTORY

– NM State leads the series 108-103.
– The Aggies have won six of the last seven games between the long-time rivals.
– The Miners have a 62-48 advantage in games played in El Paso. NMSU has won two of the last three games between the teams in the Haskins Center after UTEP won eight of the previous 10.
– UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 6-7 when coaching against NMSU, including 5-7 with the Miners. UTEP is 4-2 versus NMSU in the Haskins Center under his watch.

THE LAST MEETING

– NM State scored the game’s first 14 points, and outscored UTEP 25-10 over the final 11 minutes in a 73-53 victory over the Miners on Dec. 19, 2015 at the Don Haskins Center.
– Omega Harris scored a then-career high 23 points off the bench in his first game of the season. He made 7-of-11 shots and 3-of-4 three pointers. The rest of the team was 12-for-44 from the field (27.3 percent). The Miners’ top five scorers coming into the game — Lee Moore, Earvin Morris, Hooper Vint, Dominic Artis and Terry Winn — combined to make 8-of-34 attempts (23.5 percent).
– Despite the horrible start, the Miners clawed back in it and took the lead, 31-29, on a three-pointer by Harris with 57 seconds left in the half. The Aggies’ Ian Baker answered with a three pointer right before halftime and NMSU didn’t trail again.
– The Aggies finished 11-for-19 from beyond the arc led by Baker, who was 6-for-7 and poured in a game-high 26 points.
– After NMSU went up by 10 early in the second half, Harris made another three and Moore scored a layup to cut the deficit in half. NMSU responded with another triple, this time by Jalyn Pennie. Twenty-one seconds later, the Aggies were back up by double digits, as they stayed the remainder of the evening.
– Pennie collected 14 points and eight rebounds, shooting 4-for-7 from outside. After a slow start, Pascal Siakam tallied 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Aggies.

LAST GAME: NEW MEXICO 78, UTEP 77

– Elijah Brown scored 25 points, including the game-winning jumper with five seconds left, as New Mexico edged UTEP, 78-77, on Dec. 7 at WisePies Arena – The Pit.
– It was another classic in the long-time rivalry, renewed for the first time in five years. UTEP came back from 21 down in the first half and went toe-to-toe with the Lobos before 11,838 hostile fans, but couldn’t hold on to a three-point lead in the final 30 seconds.
– UTEP trailed 27-6 with a little over 12 minutes remaining in the first half. The Miners outscored the Lobos 27-10 over the next nine minutes to pull within four (37-33) on a three-pointer by Dominic Artis. UTEP trailed 47-39 at halftime.
– The Miners got down 13 early in the second half, but went on an 18-4 run and took their first lead, 62-61, on a three-pointer by Deon Barrett with 9:41 left. Neither team led by more than four points in a final 10 minutes that featured four ties and six lead changes.
– UTEP had its biggest lead of four (72-68) when Barrett made two free throws with 5:19 to go. The Lobos would tie it twice, 72-72 at the four-minute mark and 74-74 with 1:02 to play.
– Barrett broke the deadlock on a three-pointer with 30 seconds left. Jordan Hunter scored quickly for New Mexico to make it 77-76. Artis was fouled with 18 seconds remaining but missed the front end of the one-and-one, setting up Brown’s heroics.
– Harris scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half. The star of the second half was the freshman Barrett, who scored 25 points in 17 minutes and made seven of eight three-pointers. n The Miners made 15-of-29 threes, including 9-of-15 in the second half. They assisted on 22 of 27 field goals as Artis recorded 12 dimes to go with 13 points and five steals.
– Sam Logwood and Hunter scored 11 and 10 points respectively for New Mexico. The Lobos shot 56.8 percent and went 21-for-32 from the line to UTEP’s 8-of-14. They outrebounded the Miners 31-26, largely off a 10-1 edge early.

MINERS IN THE NCAA STATS

– UTEP was ranked 23rd nationally in assists per game (17.4) through the games of Dec 11.
– Individually, Dominic Artis was tied for third in assists (7.9 apg), 14th in steals (2.6 spg) and 21st in minutes (36.1 avg.).
– Dominic Artis, Creighton’s Maurice Watson Jr., Providence’s Kyron Cartwright and Stetson’s Angel Rivera are the only players in the country to dish out 12 assists or more in two games this season. Artis compiled 13 in the opener versus Louisiana College and 12 at New Mexico.

National Assist Leaders (Through Dec. 11)

1. Maurice Watson Jr. (Creighton) 9.1 apg
2. Lonzo Ball (UCLA) 8.8 apg
3. Dominic Artis (UTEP) 7.9 apg
Siyani Chambers (Harvard) 7.9 apg
5. Kyron Cartwright (Providence) 7.7 apg

MINERS TIE 3-POINT RECORD

– UTEP made 15 three-pointers at New Mexico on Dec. 7 to tie the school single-game record.
– The Miners also made 15 triples versus UT Permian Basin (Nov. 22, 2003) and East Carolina (Feb. 13, 2010).
– UTEP’s .517 three-point percentage (15-for-29) against the Lobos was its best in a game with a minimum 20 attempts since Dec. 17, 2011 versus Southern (12-for-23, 52.2 percent).
– The Miners’ 15 three-pointers versus UNM tied the most by a C-USA team in 2016-17. Charlotte made 15 versus USC Upstate (Nov. 22), and Rice made 15 at Texas Tech (Dec. 3).

BARRETT’S BREAKOUT

– After scoring 25 points combined in the first six games of the season, freshman Deon Barrett scored 25 points in the second half at New Mexico.
– It marked the most points by a UTEP player in a period since Dominic Artis scored 25 in the second half versus Marshall on Feb. 4, 2016.
– Barrett tied the school freshman record with seven three-pointers against the Lobos. Randy Culpepper also made seven versus SMU in the Conference USA Tournament on March 12, 2008 in Memphis.
– Barrett’s .875 three-point percentage (7-for-8) versus UNM was the best for a UTEP player in a game with a minumum seven makes. The previous record was .778 (7-for-9) by Jarvis Mullahon at NM State on Nov. 28, 1998.
– Barrett tied the Conference USA record for three-point percentage in a game (minimum eight attempts) with his performance at UNM. Tulane’s Patrick Lewis was also 7-for-8 at Saint Louis on Feb. 14, 1996.
– Barrett’s 25 points versus the Lobos are the most by a freshman in C-USA this season. LA Tech’s Jalen Harris scored 24 against Oklahoma Baptist on Nov. 23.
– Barrett’s seven three-pointers against UNM are tied for the most by a C-USA player this season. LA Tech’s Jacobi Boykins also made seven at Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 10.

FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK

– Deon Barrett was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Week on Monday, the sixth UTEP player to be so honored.
– UTEP’s past C-USA Freshmen of the Week include John Bohannon during the 2010-11 season, Cedrick Lang & Julian Washburn during the 2011-12 campaign, and Vince Hunter & Matt Willms during the 2013-14 season.

FRESHMEN UNDER FLOYD

– Deon Barrett’s 25 points at New Mexico were the second-most by a Miner freshman under seventh-year head coach Tim Floyd.
– Barrett became the seventh UTEP freshman to tally 20 points or more in a game during the Floyd era.

20-Point Games by Freshmen Under Tim Floyd – Player Opponent/Date Points

Vince Hunter LA Tech (1/30/14) 26
Vince Hunter at Southern Miss (2/22/14) 26
Deon Barrett at New Mexico (12/7/16) 25
Cedrick Lang Arkansas-Pine Bluff (12/29/11) 22
Julian Washburn at SMU (3/3/12) 21
Vince Hunter FIU (2/15/14) 21
Terry Winn vs. Marshall (3/10/16) 21
John Bohannon Western New Mexico (12/28/10) 20
Matt Willms Loyola (11/9/13) 20
Vince Hunter Marshall (1/11/14) 20
Vince Hunter at Middle Tennessee (1/16/14) 20

ARTIS’ ALL-AROUND SEASON

– Dominic Artis leads the Miners in rebounding (6.7 rpg), assists (7.9 apg), steals (2.6 spg) and minutes (36.1 mpg), and ranks second in scoring (15.3 ppg).
– He has led the Miners in scoring three times, rebounds two times, assists seven times and steals six times in 2016-17.
– Artis is the only player in the country averaging 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
– Artis and Omaha’s Tra-Deon Hollins (6.7 apg/2.9 spg) are the only players ranked in the top-15 nationally in assists and steals.
– Artis leads C-USA in assists and steals. The last Miner to lead the league in assists was Filiberto Rivera in the WAC in 2004-05 (7.2 apg), and the last to lead the conference in steals was Randy Culpepper in 2010-11 (2.03 spg).
– Since Conference USA’s inception for the 1995-96 season, only one player has led the league in assists and steal average. That was LA Tech’s Kenneth Smith in 2013-14.
– Artis’ 7.9 assists per game would shatter the school record of 7.16 per contest, set by Rivera in 2004-05.
– Artis is the third Miner player to record a pair of 12-assist games in a season, joining Joe Griffin (1989-90) and Rivera (2004-05). Rivera owns the school standard with three in a campaign.

MORE ON “D.A”

– Dominic Artis has career totals of 842 points, 324 rebounds, 370 assists and 121 steals in his fourth collegiate season (2012-14 at Oregon, 2015-present at UTEP). He has appeared in 93 games.
– He has dished out 225 assists at UTEP including 170 last season, 10th-most in school history.
– Artis has come close to posting only the second triple-double in school history on several occasions. Last season’s close calls came versus Loyola (16 points/nine rebounds/eight assists), UTRGV (21 points/eight rebounds/eight assists), LA Tech (23 points/10 rebounds/nine assists) and Florida Atlantic (13 points/nine rebounds/nine assists). He had eight points/nine rebounds/13 assists in the opener against Louisiana College, 20 points/10 rebounds/nine assists versus Western Michigan. The only triple-double in Miner history was registered by Jason Williams versus Lipscomb (17 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in the NIT on March 14, 2006.
– Artis has scored in double figures in six consecutive games, matching his career-long streak (at Oregon) from Dec. 31, 2012 – Jan. 19, 2013.
– Artis has recorded multiple steals in five of seven games this season, including a career-high tying five at New Mexico on Dec. 7.

OMEGA IS THE ALPHA

– Omega Harris leads UTEP in scoring (16.7 ppg) after collecting 6.7 ppg as a freshman and 12.3 ppg as a sophomore.
– Harris is a career 43.6 percent (210-for-482) shooter from the field, 39.6 percent (90-for-227) from three and 77.2 percent (105-for-136) from the line. He has scored 615 points.
– Harris has scored 20+ points twice in six games this season. He had two 20-point games in all of 2015-16.
– Dating back to last season, he has scored in double figures 13 times in his last 15 games.

SECOND COMING

– 7’1” Matt Willms returned this season after missing most of 2015-16 with a fracture of the nevicular bone in his foot that required a similar surgery as fellow big men Joel Embiid and Greg Oden.
– It was the second major surgery of Willms’ career; he had surgery for a torn labrum in his shoulder in 2014.
– Willms broke his nose in the Northwestern State game (Dec. 3) and will be playing with a protective mask on Tuesday.
– Willms leads the Miners in field goal percentage (.608) while averaging 11.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
– Willms has appeared in 70 games for the Miners, with 40 starts, and collected 405 points, 275 rebounds and 69 blocked shots. His career field goal percentage is .560 (155-for-277).
– He ranks 12th in school history in blocked shots, behind Marlon Maxey (11th, 75 blocks).

JAKE DOES THE DIRTY WORK

– Jake Flaggert led Conference USA in charges drawn (18) last season, and is back at it in 2016-17 with a team-leading five in seven games.
– Flaggert has 29 charges drawn in his Miner career (68 games).
– Two of Flaggert’s three career double-figure scoring games have come early this season, including a personal best 14 points against Northwestern State.
– He is 9-for-9 from the line this season after entering the campaign as a career 64.3 percent foul shooter.

SOPHOMORES STEP UP

– Paul Thomas and Trey Touchet have seen their minutes increase in 2016-17.
– Thomas is second on the team, averaging 6.1 rebounds. The 6-8 forward is third on the squad with 13 assists (1.9 apg).
– Thomas has collected at least five rebounds in six of seven games and has had double-digit boards twice (11 versus Louisiana College, 10 against Northwestern State).
– Touchet either set or tied career-highs for points (13), three-pointers (three), free throws (four), rebounds (three), assists (two) and minutes (30) against Northwestern State.
– Touchet has made 12-of-26 shots (.462) on the young campaign, 8-of-20 from three-point territory (.400) and is third on the squad with four steals.

JONES’ STORY

– One of the freshmen UTEP is counting on this season — 6-11 Kelvin Jones — has had an amazing road to El Paso.
– He grew up in Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico, where his father was the mayor. He played soccer and volleyball.
– In 2011, after cartel violence claimed two relatives, the family left in the middle of the night and moved to Bismarck, North Dakota.
– Jones started playing basketball his freshman year in high school. He was 6-9 and the school didn’t have a volleyball program.
– He finished his prep career at Hobbs [N.M.] High School, where he averaged 14.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks for a 30-2, state championship team.
– Jones put on 20 pounds in-between his junior and senior seasons.
– He walked on his first year at UTEP and sold pesticides door-to-door in Houston so he could have enough money to pay for his college tuition.
– Jones has posted 24 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocks this season. He is coming off his most productive outing at New Mexico with four points, six rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes.

MINER NUGGETS

– UTEP matched its season-high with 35 points from the bench at New Mexico.
– The 25 points by Deon Barrett at New Mexico were the most by a UTEP reserve since Randy Culpepper scored 25 against UCF on Feb. 11, 2009.
– Not only does Deon Barrett lead the Miners in assist/turnover ratio (3.5), but he has played error-free basketball over the last four games, spanning 67 minutes.
– UTEP has used five different starting lineups in seven games.
– The Miners lead Conference USA in assists this season (17.4 apg), and have assisted on 66.7 percent (122-of-183) of their field goals. That figure also leads Conference USA; UAB is second (61.8 percent) and Old Dominion third (61.7 percent)

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