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Sparkle Taylor | Photo Courtesy UTEP Athletics / Michael P. Reese

H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Hit The Road to Close out C-USA Regular Season

UTEP (8-20, 5-11 C-USA) will look to build on its strong performance at home when it plays at Old Dominion (15-12, 10-6 C-USA) at 5 p.m. MST/7 p.m. EST Thursday.

The Miners have won back-to-back games for the first time this season and are on the verge of clinching a spot in the 12-team field for the 2017 C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship presented by MetroPCS. (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.). A UTEP win at ODU or a home loss by FIU vs. MTSU wraps up the Miners’ spot.

Both Miners’ wins in their final homestand were by double digits, including posting the second-largest margin of victory in a conference game in program history last time out with the 88-47 outcome vs. FIU (2/25/17).

ODU have won seven of its past nine games, but it was upended last time out at WKU (L, 79-73, 2/25.) The Lady Monarchs are 9-4 at home (4-3 C-USA). UTEP is 1-7 on the road (1-6 C-USA).

The game will be streamed on beIN Sports Connect live and then tape-delayed on television on beIN Sports following the men’s game that evening. Fans may listen live to Brandon Cohn’s call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio or by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Lady Monarchs (@ODUWBB) 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 C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship presented by MetroPCS (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.

–  WKU (14-2) and Middle Tennessee (13-3) have first-round byes locked up with Southern Miss (12-5) and Louisiana Tech (12-5) looking good for the other two byes. Charlotte (10-6), Old Dominion (10-6), UTSA (9-7), North Texas (8-8), Rice (7-9) and host UAB (6-10) have also all locked up bids.

–  UTEP (5-11), Marshall (4-12) FIU (3-13) are fighting over the final two spots. FAU (0-15) is eliminated. The Miners can clinch a spot with a win either at Old Dominion or Charlotte or a loss by FIU vs. Middle Tennessee or UAB.

 INSIDE THE SERIES (UTEP LEADS, 4-2 OVERALL; UTEP LEADS, 3-0 IN EL PASO)

–  Old Dominion leads the series, 3-2, including a 66-54 conquest vs. UTEP in the semifinals of the 2016 C-USA Championships. The Miners won the regular-season match in El Paso, 70-64 (2/25/16).

–  UTEP will be playing in Norfolk for the third time in fourth years since ODU joined C-USA.

–  The Miners are 1-1 in Norfolk (W, 66-55, 2/15/14; L, 79-50, 2/14/15).

–  The Lady Monarchs won a neutral-site contest with UTEP, 77-71, back on Feb. 24, 1989.

GETTING TO KNOW OLD DOMINION

Overall: 15-12               Home: 9-4   Road 6-6     Neutral 0-2

C-USA: 10-6                  Home: 4-3   Road 6-3

–  Old Dominion is one of eight programs (through the end of 2015-16 season) with at least 1,000 wins.

–  Made 25 NCAA Tournament appearances (most recent ‘07-08), including winning it all in 1985. Has a total of three national championships and produced 54 All-Americans.

–  Returned all five starters from last year’s team (17-17, 10-8 C-USA).

–  ODU went 5-6 in non-conference play, which was hurt by an 0-3 road record but it bounced back to forge an impressive 6-3 mark in its nine conference contests.

–  After 3-4 start to C-USA play, the Lady Monarchs have gone 7-2 to improve to a solid 10-6 in the league.

–  ODU leads C-USA in rebounds/game (41.5) and rebound margin (+7.4). It is also fourth in field-goal percentage (44.3), field-goal percentage defense (39.9), 3-point field-goal percentage (34.7) and blocks/game (6.5) and seventh in scoring offense (70.1).

–  ODU has top-100 NCAA team rankings several categories: it is 22nd in rebound margin, 39th in field-goal percentage, 45th in rebounds/game, 57th in 3-point field-goal percentage, 82nd in scoring offense, and 98th in assists/game.

–  6-0 senior guard Jennie Simms is sixth all time on the ODU scoring list with more than 2,000 career points. This season she is pouring in 25.3 points/game to rank second nationally.

–  Simms, a USBWA National Player of the Year Midseason Watch List member, also paces C-USA and is among the NCAA’s leaders for field-goals made (235-third) and attempts (497-10th), free throws made (158-sixth). Simms’s 203 free-throw attempts is second in the league and 14th nationally.

–  Simms is also sixth in C-USA for rebounds/game (8.2) and minutes/game (36.0) and ninth for assists/game (4.3).

–  Simms is one of two players nationally (Tori Jankoska, Michigan State) to account for 20+ points/game, 8+ rebounds/game and 4+ assists/game this season.

–  Simms has recorded 30+ points nine times this year and 15 total in her career. Included in those performances was a 43-point outburst against Marshall (ODU W, 77-69, 1/5/17).

–  Destinee Young is first in C-USA and among the national leaders for rebounds/game (10.9-10th), total rebounds (293-19th), offensive rebounds/game (4.0-13th) and double-doubles (14-21st).

–  Young is also fifth in C-USA for blocks/game (1.3).

–  Simms (25.3) and Young (11.3) pace the attack but no other player contributing more than 6.0 points/game.

–  Notable alumni include Ben Bailey (host of TV show Cash Cab) and Nancy Lieberman (Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer).

LAST MEETING WITH OLD DOMINION: FIU 66, UTEP 54 (2016 C-USA SEMIS, 3/11/16)

–  (1) UTEP forced 21 turnovers and played hard but couldn’t get enough shots to fall in an 66-54 setback vs. (5) Old Dominion in the semifinals of the 2016 Conference USA Championships at Legacy Arena on March 11, 2016.

–  Cameasha Turner tallied 18 points while Jenzel Nash (13 points) and Starr Breedlove (10 points) also hit double for the Miners. ODU was paced by Jennie Simms’s double-double (21 points, 10 rebounds) while Ije Ajemba (14 points) and Gianna Smith (10 points) also got things going.

–  UTEP committed only 12 turnovers and enjoyed advantages in points in the paint (26-20) and points off turnovers (17-12) but that wasn’t enough to compensate for an off shooting day. The Miners finished at 28.8 percent (19-66) from the floor-compared to ODU’s 39.1 percent (18-46).

–  Old Dominion also won the rebounding battle (47-36) while also taking advantage of getting to the free-throw line early and often. The Lady Monarchs connected on 26-41 (63.4 percent) at the charity stripe, with Simms going 11-14 in that area. UTEP was 12-17 (70.6 percent) at the free-throw line.

GOING BACK IN TIME at UTEP 88, FIU 47 (2/25/17)

–  UTEP stormed out to a 28-9 first-quarter lead and never looked back on the way to posting a resounding 88-47 victory to send Sparkle Taylor out in style on “Senior Day” on Feb. 25 at the Don Haskins Center.

–  The 41-point margin of victory is the second biggest in a conference game in program history.

–  UTEP led 44-25 at the half and any aspirations the visitors had of mounting a second-half comeback when the Orange and Blue ripped off 20 straight points over the first five-plus minutes of the third quarter.

–  Taylor poured in a game-high 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and career-best tying five assists in a fitting final home performance for her career. Katarina Zec (career-high 13 points), Tamara Seda (15 points, six rebounds) andNajala Howell (13 points, eight boards) also reached double figures.

–  UTEP drilled 44.9 percent (31-69) from the field, including a ridiculous 61.1 percent (11-18) during the huge third quarter (31-8). The 31 points in that frame tied as the third-most ever by the Miners in a quarter.

–  FIU finished at 36.5 percent (19-52) from the floor, which was hurt by an 0-10 readout on 3-point shots.

The visitors also made 17 turnovers-compared to a season-low nine by UTEP- which led to a 28-7 advantage for the Miners in points off turnovers.

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