Tip-off is at 8 p.m. in a rivalry doubleheader at the Haskins Center that also features the unbeaten (4-0) UTEP women facing unblemished (7-0) New Mexico at 5:30.
Only five days after doing battle in Las Cruces, the UTEP Miners and NM State Aggies will lace ‘em up again on Thursday night in El Paso. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. in a rivalry doubleheader at the Haskins Center that also features the unbeaten (4-0) UTEP women facing unblemished (7-0) New Mexico at 5:30.
Tickets start at just $8 for admission into both games. The UTEP Ticket Center number is 747-5234.
A busy last couple of days for the Miner basketball program saw UTEP lose to Lamar, coach Tim Floyd announce his retirement and Phil Johnson being installed as interim head coach.
“I told the team that I can’t be coach Floyd. I have to be coach Johnson,” Johnson said. “There are so many similarities. We have been together so long. We believe in so much of the same things and the basic brand of basketball and how you defend. It all starts with defending and rebounding and getting back on defense and sharing the ball, taking care of the ball, getting good shots and that kind of thing. We have always shared [those philosophies] and I think that’s why we’ve done well together. I have always pointed out the issues at halftime or during the game on the bench and making those adjustments. So hopefully we’ll have somebody that will do that. I’ve got a lot of faith in our staff and coach [Bobby] Braswell and coach [Kris] Baumann. They are really tremendous coaches and great minds. I told the team, and I told those guys, this isn’t about me. We’re all going to do this together.”
UTEP hung with the heavily-favored Aggies at the Pan American Center for a good long while before eventually succumbing 72-63. The Miners were outrebounded 46-31 with Matt Willms out of the lineup and freshman Tirus Smith making his first start in the frontcourt.
“We’re going to have to rebound the ball better. We got crushed over there in Las Cruces on the glass. That’s really number one,” Johnson said. “And we’ve got to figure out a way to stop their three-point shooting. They really shot the ball well [in the first game] and they can shoot the ball well. It’s one of the things that they do. And so we’ll have to do a better job there. And then we’ve got to execute better offensively. We know we’re short-handed with some guys, and so we’re going to have to stay out of foul trouble as well. Those are three areas we have talked about in the film. And how we’re going to guard and all that stuff, we’re still kind of determining those things.”
The Miners are 1-5 to start the season. They have lost five games to Division I opponents with a combined record of 24-8. At least 25 games remain, including 18 versus Conference USA opponents. Willms will be back and the team will get better.
“I feel good about our team,” Johnson said. “I told them all, everybody has got to pick it up. We’re better than 1-5. And we’ve gotten beat by good basketball teams. We haven’t gotten beat by terrible teams. Every one of those teams, in fact Appalachian State was a very good basketball team and yet we had our chance to win. Obviously the Boise State game, we should’ve won. And the New Mexico State game, we were certainly not out of that game. And watching the film [of the first NMSU game], we were there. We were right there. So we’re not that far away, and that will be our job to try to get us over the hump.”
***UTEP VS UNM
UTEP AND NEW MEXICO TO CLASH IN BATTLE OF UNBEATENS IN I-25 RIVALRY
UTEP (4-0) will challenge I-25 rival (RV) New Mexico (7-0) in a battle of undefeated teams at 5:30 p.m. MST at the Don Haskins Center Thursday. The game is part of a doubleheader with the UTEP men’s team hosting NM State at 8 p.m. One ticket price, starting as low as $8, will get fans into both games. The contest will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio and there will also be a live stream on CUSAtv.com (subscription based).
HOMESTAND NEARING AN END
The tilt is the fifth of a season-opening six-game homestand, Houston Baptist (1 p.m. Saturday) also on the docket. It ties as the second longest homestand to start a season in program history.
For the third straight season, NCAA women’s basketball games will be played in four 10-minute quarters. Teams reach the bonus and shoot two free throws on the fifth team foul in each quarter. In the four-quarter format, team fouls reset to zero at the start of each quarter. Teams have four timeouts (three 30s, one 60), three which carry over to the second half. They will be able to advance the ball to the frontcourt after a timeout with less than 59.9 seconds in 4Q. There are seven media timeouts (four under five minutes in quarter/first called), two intermission media timeouts (after first and third quarters) and the first team-called timeout during the second half. Bands or amplified music may play during any dead ball.
CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). They are also encouraged to use #WeAreMiners in posts.
INSIDE THE SERIES (NEW MEXICO LEADS, 32-17 OVERALL; UTEP LEADS 13-12 IN EL PASO)
New Mexico leads the series, 32-17, but the Miners are 5-3 against the Lobos since the start of 2007-08 season. This is the fourth straight season that the squads are meeting. UTEP has a 13-12 advantage when playing at home, including downing UNM 70-62, on Dec. 2, 2015. The Lobos avenged that loss by knocking off the Miners at The Pit 79-66 on Dec. 11 last season. The rivalry dates to inception of the Miners’ program, with the schools squaring off at least once per year from 1974-75 through 1986-87. It resumed in 1991 and continued through 2001-02, which included a stretch when both programs were members of the WAC.
GETTING TO KNOW NEW MEXICO
New Mexico is flying high at 7-0 on the year, all at home, with a +18.6 (89.3-70.7) margin of victory. It received 19 points and is 29th in the most-recent AP Poll. Most recently the Lobos won their Thanksgiving Tournament with three victories in as many games, including dismantling Big 10 foe Illinois by 31 points (97-68) last time out.
UNM’s high-octane attack is producing 89.3 points per game, with five individuals (Cherise Beynon-16.4 ppg, Jaisa Nunn-16.0 ppg, Tesha Buck-14.7 ppg, Madi Washington-11.2 ppg and Alex Lapeyrolerie-11.0) averaging double figures in scoring. Nunn has also been a beast on the glass (10.7 rpg), including grabbing 35 total offensive boards (5.0 orpg) while Beynon has racked up the assists (7.3 apg).
UNM has top-100 NCAA team rankings for free throws made (180-first), free throws attempted (129-second), fewest turnovers per game (11.3-sixth), scoring offense (89.3-ninth), 3-pointers per game (10.0-12th), assists per game (18.7-27th), turnover margin (+6.1-27th), 3-point field-goal percentage (39.1-36th), scoring margin (+18.6-37th), rebounds per game (43.9-48th), field-goal percentage (43.9-75th), steals per game (9.6-84th) and blocks per game (3.1-93rd).
Individually Beynon is 10th in assists per game (7.3) and 55th in steals per contest (2.9). Nunn is 10th in double-doubles (four), 12th in field-goal percentage (66.1), 33rd for rebounds per game (10.7) and 99th in free-throw percentage (85.7). Tesha Buck is 17th in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.0), 53rd in 3-pointers per game (3.1) and 71st in 3-point percentage (46.8). The Lobos have a proud tradition with 15 postseason appearances (eight NCAA, five WNIT and two WBI) while amassing an all-time record of 616-523 since launching the program in 1974-75.
The University of New Mexico, located in Albuquerque, is the largest state school in New Mexico. It was founded in 1899. Notable alumni include Gary Berntsen (Former CIA Senior Operations Officer), Antoine Predock (Renowned architect who designed Petco Park, and Brian Urlacher (former All-Pro LB for Chicago Bears).
LAST MEETING WITH NEW MEXICO: (at New Mexico 79, UTEP 66, Dec. 11, 2016)
Junior Tamara Seda posted her second straight double-double (career-high 19 points, career-high 16 rebounds) but homestanding New Mexico rode the play of Cheirsa Beynon (24 points, seven assists, six rebounds) and Richelle van der Keijl (18 points, 12 rebounds) to a 79-66 victory at The Pit on Dec. 11, 2016. It was a tale of two halves, with the Lobos clicking on all cylinders over the first 20 minutes to build a 48-29 advantage heading into the locker room. UNM nailed 51.4 percent from the floor, including 43.4 percent on triples, in addition to forcing eight UTEP turnovers in the period. The Miners did an excellent job of making adjustments at the break, and played a much better second half. UTEP outscored UNM, 37-31, during the final 20 minutes but the damage had been done. The Miners made just three turnovers in the second stanza to finish with a season-low 11 giveaways. It marked the third straight game that UTEP has recorded 12 or fewer turnovers. The Orange and Blue also slowed down UNM’s high-octane offense in the second stanza. The Lobos were held to 31 points on 35.5 percent (11-31) shooting in the frame, including 3-15 (20.0 percent) from beyond-the-arc. Overall UNM finished at 43.9 percent (29-66) from the field, including 10-29 (34.5 percent) from distance. UTEP connected on 37.7 percent (26-69), which included drilling a season-best seven three pointers. The Miners also battled on the boards, with UNM holding a slight edge (46-43) in the category.
GOING BACK IN TIME (at UTEP 65, Texas Southern 55 (11/25/17)
Junior Najala Howell (16 points, 10 rebounds) and senior Tamara Seda (13 points, 13 rebounds) each posted double-doubles to help UTEP notch a hard-fought 65-55 win against Texas Southern in the final game of the sixth-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 25. The Miners never trailed in the contest and used a 10-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to break the game’s one and only tie (48-48, 5:20 4Q) in decisive fashion. UTEP held the Lady Tigers, who have averaged 20 wins the past five years, to 38.8 percent shooting (19-49) while also crushing them on the boards (46-25). Playing a big role in the rebounding margin was a season-high 21 offensive rebounds which led to 21 second-chance points for the home side. The Miners connected on 34.0 percent (18-53) of their shots but they more than made up for that with their rebounding and defensive efforts, in addition to setting season bests for free-throws made (26), attempted (33) and percentage (.788). In fact the Orange and Blue were 16-17 at the charity stripe in the pressure-packed fourth quarter. Sophomore Katarina Zec chipped in 10 points, her third straight game in double figures, while also grabbing a career-high eight rebounds. Junior Jordan Alexander registered 13 points and six caroms while sophomore Roeshonda Patterson provided a spark off the best with a season-high seven points and career-high matching three rebounds.
WHAT A START FOR THE BAKER ERA
At 4-0 Kevin Baker has matched the best start by a first-year UTEP head coach in program history. The only other time it happened was in the program’s first season when Carol Ammermann also peeled off four straight victories in 1974-75. Baker is the eighth head coach at the school.
GETTING OUT OF THE GATES FAST
UTEP has peeled off four straight victories to start the season, which already puts it half way toward matching last season’s overall win total (8-23). Additionally it marks the ninth start of at least 4-0 in program history. The Orange and Blue previously achieved the feat in 2015-16 (8-0), 2013-14 (9-0), 2012-13 (5-0), 2011-12 (10-0), 2006-07 (4-0), 1998-99 (4-0), 1996-97 (7-0) and 1974-75 (4-0).
CLEANING UP ON THE BOARDS
UTEP has won the rebounding battle by 20+ boards in back-to-back games for the first time since it also did so in 2011-12 in wins against Texas State on Dec. 31, 2011 (50-24, +26) and SMU on Jan. 5, 2012, (52-28, +24). The Miners outrebounded Arkansas by +24 (51-27) on Nov. 24 while holding a +21 advantage (46-25) on the glass against Texas Southern on Nov. 25. Overall on the year the Miners stand at +14.8 (42.8-28.0) in the department.
KNOCKING DOWN SHOTS
UTEP is shooting 47.2 percent (91-193) from the floor in 2017-18, which was helped by making better than 50 percent in each of the first three games of the season for the first time since at least 1982-83 (prior records incomplete).
GETTING AFTER IT ON DEFENSE
UTEP has held the opposition to 32.8 percent (79-241) from the floor in 2017-18. For the first time 1982-83 (prior records incomplete), the Miners kept their first three foes to below 33 percent shooting before Texas Southern managed to connect on 38.8 percent (19-49) last time out on Nov. 25.
SEDA DOMINATING DOWN LOW
Senior Tamara Seda has been a force to be reckoned with early on in 2017-18. She paces the team in scoring (16.0 ppg), rebounding (9.0 rpg) and double-doubles (two). She has reached double figures in scoring in all four contests, including pouring in a career-best 20 points against both CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 11) and Arkansas (Nov. 24). She is shooting just under 50.0 percent from the floor (49.0) and enters the match-up vs. New Mexico on the strength of back-to-back double-doubles.
ZEC STEPPING HER GAME UP
For the first time of her career sophomore Katarina Zec has reached double figures in scoring in three consecutive contests. Overall she is tied for third on the team in scoring (9.5 ppg) while ranking fourth in rebounding (5.8 rpg). She is also leading the Miners in playing time (35.5 mpg). As a freshman she pitched in 5.7 ppg and 1.7 rpg in 20.8 mpg.
COOK FEELING IT FROM DISTANCE
After shooting 19.3 percent (11-57) from 3-point range as a freshman, Faith Cook has drilled 41.7 percent (5-12) from beyond-the-arc through four games of the 2017-18 season. Included in that was going 3-5 from home run-range in the season-opening win against CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11. The three triples shattered her previous best of one (11 different games). Overall Cook is accounting for 6.5 ppg after putting up 1.9 ppg a year ago.
HOWELL PUTTING UP THE POINTS
Junior Najala Howell has reached double figures in scoring in all four games this season, including a 19-point effort (one shy of her career high) against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Nov. 18. She followed that up with a 15-point effort in the win vs. SEC foe Arkansas on Nov. 24 before posting her second career double-double (16 points, 10 boards) in the Miners’ victory vs. Texas Southern on Nov. 25. Howell has been incredibly efficient, pacing the team in field-goal percentage (63.6) while ranking second in scoring (15.0). She is also second on the squad in playing time (33.2 mpg).
COMING ALIVE FROM 3-POINT LAND
Najala Howell leads the team in 3-pointers made (seven), attempted (13) and 3-point field-goal percentage (53.8). Helping her cause was burying a career-high three triples in the win vs. Arkansas on Nov. 24. It’s a stark improvement from a year ago when she hit 35.2 percent (19-54) from beyond-the-arc.
ALEXANDER GETTING AFTER IT
Junior Jordan Alexander, one of two newcomers on this year’s squad, is looking like a difference maker. She paces the team in free-throws made (20) and attempted (25) while ranking second in rebounding (7.5 rpg) and tied for third in scoring (9.5 ppg). The majority of her rebounds (25-of-30) have been at the defensive end, which has helped the Miners produce a +14.8 (42.8-28.0) rebounding margin.
TAKING DOWN A POWER PROGRAM
UTEP downed Arkansas, 64-61, on Nov. 24 to secure its first win in program history against an SEC opponent. Overall it is UTEP’s initial regular-season victory against a power-five conference foe since it crushed Kansas State, 84-39, on Nov. 16, 2013. The Miners are now 11-53 all time vs. teams from a power five conference (at point of match-up), but they are 7-10 since 2012-13.
SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST
After scoring 37 points through three quarters of action, the Miners erupted for 30 points over the final 10 minutes to erase an eight-point deficit and rally past CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 11. The 30 points are the most scored in the fourth quarter by the Miners in program history and rank tied for fifth-most points in a quarter overall at the school.
MORE ON THAT FINAL FRAME
UTEP shot a sizzling 80 percent (8-10) from the floor in the fourth quarter while limiting CSUB to 18.8 percent (3-16). But perhaps the stat that jumps out above any other over the final 10 minutes is rebounding. UTEP had a whopping 16-2 advantage on the glass in the period, helping it turn a 28-20 deficit in the department through three quarters of action into a final 36-30 margin. UTEP also limited its turnovers to four after entering with 17.
STAUNCH DEFENSE TO START
Twice this year the Miners have held opponents to five points or less in the first quarter of play. UTEP conceded only three points in the first quarter against Arkansas on Nov. 24, which ties the program standard for fewest points allowed in a frame. The Miners held the Razorbacks to 0-15 shooting from the floor in the stanza; all three points came at the charity stripe. The Orange and Blue previously limited CSU Bakersfield to five points in the first frame on Nov. 11. It set the then program standard for fewest points allowed in the first quarter and tied as third for fewest points in a quarter overall.
PLENTY OF PLAYING TIME TO GO AROUND
The Miners have only 10 active players this year, meaning that there’s going to be plenty of playing time to go around. Head coach Kevin Baker has done a good job of spreading the minutes around with seven different Miners (Katarina Zec-35.5, Najala Howell-33.2, Tamara Seda-29.0, Jordan Alexander-28.0, Faith Cook-25.8, Jordan Jenkins-18.8 and Zuzanna Puc-16.5) logging at least 16 minutes per contest
IN THE NCAA RANKINGS
The Miners have top-100 NCAA team rankings for rebound margin (+14.8-12th), field-goal percentage defense (32.8-17th), fewest personal fouls per game (14.5-21st), field-goal percentage (47.2-25th), scoring defense (55.2-39th), 3-point field-goal percentage (38.3-43rd), 3-point field-goal percentage defense (27.6-70th), rebounds per game (42.8-73rd), scoring margin (+11.0-84th) and assists per game (15.8-85th). Individually Najala Howell is 21st in field-goal percentage (63.6), Katarina Zec is 33rd in free-throw percentage (90.9) and 88th in minutes per game (35.5) and Tamara Seda is 100th in rebounds per game (9.0)
GETTING TO KNOW THE 2017-18 MINERS
UTEP returned eight letter winners (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Najala Howell, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Tamara Seda, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec) from last year’s squad (8-23, 5-11 Conference USA). Puc, Seda and Zec all started for UTEP in 2016-17. The Miners also added four newcomers (Jordan Alexander, Ariona Gill, Jordan Jenkins and Neidy Ocuane) but Gill and Ocuane are slated to take a redshirt year in 2017-18. The squad is under the direction of first-year head coach Kevin Baker, who is assisted by first-year assistants Nicole Dunson, Michael Madrid and Lori Morris.
Head coach Kevin Baker inherited a young team, with 60% of the active roster (6-of-10) comprised of sophomores (Faith Cook, Jakeira Ford, Roeshonda Patterson, Zuzanna Puc, Rachel Tapps and Katarina Zec). The Miners have just three upperclassmen, in the form of one senior (Tamara Seda) to go along with returning junior Najala Howell and junior-college transfer Jordan Alexander. Freshman Jordan Jenkins rounded out the active roster. Two other newcomers (junior-college transfers Ariona Gill and Neidy Ocuane) are sitting out the 2017-18 season as redshirts.
The Miners have four newcomers to the squad in 2017-18 though two of the additions (junior Ariona Gill, 5-11, G/F, San Jacinto College) and junior Neidy Ocuane (5-5, G, Seward County CC) are redshirting the 2017-18 season. Junior Jordan Alexander (5-11, F, Trinity Valley CC) and true freshman Jordan Jenkins (5-3, G, Buffalo HS) both have started the first four games and are expected to remain significant contributors throughout the year. Last year Alexander helped TVCC qualify for its 10th straight trip to the national tournament and finish with an overall record of 30-6. She put up 6.5 points per game while also grabbing 2.5 rebounds per game. Jenkins averaged 20 points, eight steals, seven assists and six rebounds to help her squad earn runner-up honors in Texas 2017 in the UIL 3A playoffs. Ocuane paced her team in assists per game (4.7) and steals per game (2.4) while ranking fourth in scoring (11.2). Her efforts helped it win the program’s first conference title in eight years.
NOTING THE SCHEDULE
The return of the UTEP Thanksgiving Classic and a 16-game Conference USA slate, match-ups against both New Mexico and NM State and non-conference contests against power league members Arkansas and East Carolina highlight the 2017-18 UTEP women’s basketball schedule. There are also games against three teams that played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament (NM State, Texas Southern and WKU) and four from the 2017 Postseason WNIT (Georgetown, LA Tech, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss)
THE BAKER FILE
Kevin Baker was appointed as the eighth head coach in UTEP women’s basketball history on Monday, April 24, 2017. He has a unique background which has seen him rise through the coaching ranks from high school level, to NCAA Division III, then NCAA Division II and now his NCAA Division I position at UTEP. Throughout his ascent, though, he has consistently found a way to win. He is 348-131 overall in his 16th year as a head coach, including 126-30 in his sixth season as a college head coach. He has set school records for wins at every stop of his career, and has taken every school to the playoffs with a total of five district championships. He is an eight-time Coach of the Year. In his stops most recently prior to UTEP, Baker’s teams captured back-to-back conference championships at UT-Tyler and Angelo State. Baker has led both a Division II (Angelo State) and Division III (UT-Tyler) school to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
HISTORY Of FIRST-YEAR COACHES AT UTEP
In terms of success rate in the first season on the sidelines, Carol Ammerman (11-5, 1974-75) and Janet Wood (11-16, 1979-80) share the platform for most victories by a Miner head coach in their initial campaign. Ammerman’s effort came in the first year of the program, and is also the lone winning record by a first-year Miner head coach in school history. Overall the prior seven head coaches at UTEP are a combined 54-120 (8-17 average record). Needless to say, Kevin Baker is hoping to buck that trend in 2017-18.
While head coach Kevin Baker and his three assistants (Nicole Dunson, Michael Madrid and Lori Morris) are in their first year at UTEP, they brought plenty of coaching experience to the Sun City. The quartet entered the 2017-18 season with a combined 93 years of coaching experience (Morris-37 years, Baker-23 years, Madrid-22 years and Dunson-11 years).
BASIC FACTS ON THE PROGRAM
UTEP is 551-648 in its 44th season as a women’s basketball program, including 4-0 in 2017-18. The Miners have made four postseason bids (2016,-WNIT quarterfinals; 2014-WNIT runner-up, 2012-NCAA first round and 2008-NCAA second round), sporting a combined record of 9-4 (8-2 WNIT, 1-2 NCAA). UTEP has claimed four league championships (2016 C-USA regular season, 2012 C-USA regular season and conference tournament and 2008 C-USA regular season). It has a 1-1 record all time in league tournament title games, winning the title in 2012 and falling in 2008. There have been six 20+ win seasons (all since 2006-07), including four of the past six years. UTEP has cracked the top-25 poll in two seasons (2015-16, 2007-08), including being ranked in the final six weeks in ‘07-08, while receiving votes in eight campaigns total (‘15-16, ‘13-14, ‘12-13, ‘11-12, ‘08-09, ‘07-08 and ‘06-07). The Miners have been mentioned in the AP Preseason Poll four times, including garnering three points in 2016-17. In 2008 UTEP became the first C-USA women’s team to finish undefeated in league play (16-0) while claiming the program’s initial league title in 2008. The Miners finished 15-1 in C-USA in 2012 in addition to also winning the program’s first conference tournament championship. UTEP owns the C-USA single-season record for winning streak at 23, which was set in 2007-08. The University of Texas at El Paso (founded in 1914) recently enjoyed its centennial celebration. Notable alumni include former ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Sam Donaldson, well-respected NFL referee Ed Hochuli, former NASA astronaut Danny Olivas engineer & Dennis Poon, who designed Taipei 101 & some of the tallest buildings in the world.
THIRD-BEST IN TEXAS SINCE 2006-07
The Miners have the third-highest winning percentage among all DI programs in Texas since ‘06-07. Baylor (354-52, 87.2%), and Texas A&M (287-99, 74.4%) lead the way followed by UTEP (233-120, 66.0%). Texas (239-133, 64.2%-4th), Lamar (214-137, 61.0%-5th), Stephen F. Austin (206-140, 59.5%-6th), TCU (204-152, 57.3%-7th), SMU (189-160, 54.2%-9th), Prairie View A&M (190-165, 53.5%-9th) and Texas Tech (181-175, 50.8%-10th) round out the top 10.
The Miners are 133-66 since the start of the 2011-12 season, with 80 double-digit victories in that time frame. UTEP has played postseason basketball in three of the past six seasons, making two deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up, 2016 quarterfinals) and earning the C-USA automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament (lost, first round). It is has enjoyed 14 separate winning streaks of at least three games during that time frame.
HOME SWEET HOME
UTEP has an all-time home record of 355-214, including standing 4-0 this year. The Miners have amassed a record of 157-40 at home since 2006-07, including 90-23 since 2011-12. Aiding that 90-23 record over the past six years was a school-record 19-1 home mark in 2015-16. The match-up against New Mexico is the fifth of 16 regular-season tilts at the Don Haskins Center in 2017-18. UTEP has been particularly strong in non-conference play, sporting a record of 79-11 at home in the situation since 2006-07.
ALL ABOUT THE FANS
The Miners received tremendous support to help propel them to a pair of deep runs in the WNIT (2014 runner-up honors, 2016 quarterfinals) in the past four years. UTEP averaged 7,773 fans per game during the 10 WNIT contests (8-2 record) in El Paso. Aiding those numbers were back-to-back sellouts , the first in program history, in the semifinals and finals of the 2014 WNIT. The Miners have ranked in the top-50 nationally for attendance in three of the past six years. UTEP placed 28th in 2013-14 (3,793 avg.), 42nd in 2012-13 (2,708 avg.) and 46th in 2011-12 (2,639 avg.). The Miners are 28-10 when playing in front of 4,000+ fans since 2001-02. They are 25-3 in the situation at the Don Haskins Center and 3-7 when doing so on the road.
UTEP is 139-355 all time on the road, including a record of 1-9 during the 2016-17 season. When playing at a neutral site the Miners stand 57-78, including five losses to power-five programs last season. Since the start of the 2006-07 season UTEP is 57-62 on the road, including 33-31 since 2011-12.
Redshirt-senior Tamara Seda ranks sixth at UTEP in blocked shots (72), tied seventh in double-doubles (13), tied 23rd in rebounds (456) and 48th in scoring (511).
2016-17 IN REVIEW
UTEP went through a rebuilding year in 2016-17, finishing with a record of 8-23, including 5-13 in Conference USA play, before bowing out in the first round of the 2017 C-USA Championships. The youth-laden Miners lost all five starters from the 2015-16 season and returned only four letter winners from that squad, giving them a new look for the year. UTEP played its most challenging non-conference schedule in program history with a single-season school-record five games against teams from power five conferences. It went 0-5 in those contests while finishing 3-4 vs. non power league programs in non-conference play. Overall UTEP was saddled with a 2-9 start to the year before going 3-3 over the next six games. The Miners then lost a season-long six straight and eight of the next nine before posting back-to-back victories. UTEP dropped its final two games of the regular season and was upended by sixth-seeded Old Dominion in the first round of the C-USA Championships, 80-70
CLIFF NOTES ON THE 2017-18 SEASON
UTEP TAKES DOWN SEC FOE ARKANSAS, 64-61 (at UTEP 64, Arkansas 61 (11/24/17)
UTEP posted a wire-to-wire 64-61 victory against Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas in its opening game of the sixth-annual UTEP Thanksgiving Classic at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 24. The Miners raced out to a 13-2 lead four minutes in, were up 18 (38-20) at half and 16 (52-36) through three quarters before withstanding a furious rally attempt by the Razorbacks. UA managed to whittle UTEP’s advantage all the way down to one (62-61) but sophomore Faith Cook hit a fadeaway jumper to beat the shot clock with eight seconds left in the game to put the Miners back up by three. The visitor’s Devin Cosper then misfired on a triple at the other end. Tamara Seda notched a double-double (career-high tying 20 points, 10 rebounds) to lead UTEP, but she was buoyed by 14 points and eight rebounds from Najala Howell and 10 points and six boards by Katarina Zec. Jordan Jenkins did her part with a career-high seven assists while Zuzanna Puc pitched in eight points and four boards in 15 minutes off the bench in her 2017-18 debut. UTEP connected on better than 50.0 percent (50.8 percent, 27-53) from the floor for the third straight game, something it hasn’t done to start a season since at least 1981-82 (prior stats incomplete). The Miners also defended tirelessly, holding Arkansas to 30.0 percent (21-70) from the floor. The Razorbacks jacked up 41 3-point shots, but only made 11, for a readout of 26.8 percent. The Orange and Blue took care of business on the boards, winning the rebounding battle to the tune of 51-27. Helping that figure was 40 defensive boards, the most against a division I opponent since also securing 40 against Tulane on March 8, 2013. An area of concern for UTEP was turnovers (23) which led to 22 Arkansas points. But the Orange and Blue compensated for that by the dominance in other areas, in addition to holding a 38-18 advantage in points in the paint.
UTEP CRUISES PAST TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI, 69-49
at UTEP 69, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 49 (11/18/17)
UTEP played well in all facets off the game in a convincing 69-49 victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 18. The Miners shot 54.3 percent (25-46) from the floor while stifling the Islanders to a readout of 31.1 percent (19-61), including 4-15 (26.7 percent) from distance. UTEP won the boards (38-30), racked up 19 assists compared to 14 turnovers and led for the majority of the contest. Najala Howell paced the Orange and Blue with 19 points-one shy of a personal best- while also dishing out a career-high seven assists. Katarina Zec (12 points), Tamara Seda (11 points) and Jakeira Ford (10 points) all joined her in double figures for scoring while Jordan Alexander pitched in seven points. Four different Miners grabbed at least five rebounds, with Ford leading the way with six caroms. UTEP led by two (14-12) after the first quarter before outscoring the visitors 35-16 over the next two frames to blow open the game.
UTEP RALLIES PAST CSU BAKERSFIELD IN OPENER, 67-56
at UTEP 67, CSU Bakersfield 56 (11/11/17)
UTEP used a huge fourth quarter to rally past CSU Bakersfield, 67-56, in the 2017-18 season opener for both squads at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 11. The Roadrunners led by eight (45-37) through three quarters of action but the Miners opened up the final frame on an 13-1 run to help fuel a dominant 30-11 advantage over the last 10 minutes of action. Senior Tamara Seda (20 points), junior Jordan Alexander (15 points) and sophomore Faith Cook (14 points) each established career highs to lead the way for the Miners, who were victorious in head coach Kevin Baker’s Division I coaching debut. Junior Najala Howell (10 points) also reached double digits in scoring for UTEP, which nailed 51.2 percent (21-41) from the floor and 42.9 percent (6-14) from beyond-the-arc. Alexander, who played her freshman year at DI Louisiana before transferring to Trinity Valley, grabbed a personal-best 10 boards for her first career double-double while Seda added eight caroms. UTEP won the rebounding battle, 36-30, which was aided by a whopping 16-2 advantage in the fourth quarter. The Miners held CSUB to 32.8 percent (20-61) from the floor.
START IT OFF STRONG
UTEP improved to 24-20 all time in season openers, including 21-7 when doing so in El Paso. Overall in home openers, the Miners now stand 28-14 (missing outcomes in some years).
RECAPPING THE EXHIBITION SEASON
For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Miners played a pair of exhibition games to prepare for the regular season. UTEP split the contests, drilling NCAA Division III member Sul Ross State, 99-40, on Oct. 29, while falling to NCAA Division II member St. Mary’s (Texas), 68-62, on Nov. 4. Katarina Zec (17.5 points per game) was the top point producer for the Miners but four others (Tamara Seda-16.5 ppg, Najala Howell-15.0 ppg, Jordan Alexander-11.0 ppg and Jakeira Ford-11.0 ppg) also averaged double figures in scoring. As a team UTEP shot 45.5 percent (56-123) from the floor while holding its foes to 30.9 percent (38-123). The Miners excelled at the free-throw line (35-42, 83.3 percent) and also dominated the rebounding department (51.0 rebounds per game to 27.5 opponent rebounds per game).
A recap of each of the contests is below.
St. Mary’s (Texas) 68, at UTEP 62 (11/4/17)
Five different Miners reached double figures in scoring but visiting NCAA Division II St. Mary’s (Texas) used a barrage of three pointers to down UTEP, 68-62, in an exhibition contest at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 4. The Miners were clicking on all cylinders early with a 22-point first quarter, which helped propel them to a 35-27 advantage at the half. The visiting Rattlers came out firing after the break, eventually pulling ahead by 12 (61-49) with 7:36 to play in the game. UTEP scored the game’s next 10 points to help fuel a 13-1 run to even the tilt at 62 with 2:25 remaining. But St. Mary’s, which finished 21-7 a year ago, received back-to-back triples from Sierra Dixon to decide the game. The long-distance hits were part of 14 on the day for St. Mary’s, including five alone in the final frame. Jordan Alexander (14 points) led a quintet of Miners in double figures offensively, with Katarina Zec (12 points), Najala Howell (12 points), Tamara Seda (10 points) and Jakeira Ford (10 points) joining her. Seda pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds for a double-double, which also helped UTEP win the boards, 46-33. UTEP shot it reasonably well at 40.7 percent (24-59), but it struggled from beyond-the-arc at 26.7 percent (4-15). While the Miners held St. Mary’s to 35.4 percent shooting (23-65), they allowed the Rattlers to drill 14-of-31 (45.2 percent) from downtown.
at UTEP 99, Sul Ross State 40 (10/29/17)
UTEP raced out to a 52-17 halftime lead and never looked back on the way to a 99-40 exhibition win against Division III Sul Ross State at the Don Haskins Center on Oct. 29. Senior Tamara Seda dominated with a monstrous double-double (23 points, 15 rebounds) while sophomore Katarina Zec (23 points, nine boards) and junior Najala Howell (18 points, seven rebounds) also had big days. Seda also added four blocks and four steals. The Miners shot 50.0 percent (32-64) from the floor, including 45.5 percent (10-22) from distance, while also nailing 86.2 percent (25-29) at the charity stripe. It was a different story for the visiting Lady Lobos, who were harassed into 22 turnovers and held to 25.9 percent (15-58) from the floor. UTEP also took care of business on the boards, outrebounding Sul Ross State, 56-22. Seda led the way with a game-high 15 boards while Jordan Alexander pulled down 11 caroms. Alexander added eight points in her Miner debut. An area of concern for UTEP was turnovers with 19, but 14 of those came in the first half. y
***UTEP VS NMSU
MINERS, AGGIES MEET IN I-10 REMATCH
Five days after NM State (4-1) handled UTEP (1-5) in Las Cruces by the score of 72-63, the Miners and the Aggies meet in the I-10 rematch on Thursday night at the Don Haskins Center. FirstLight Federal Credit Union is the official sponsor of the UTEP-NM State rivalry. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. MT. It’s game two of a “Rivalry Week” doubleheader as the 4-0 UTEP women will face 7-0 New Mexico at 5:30 p.m. UTEP is in the midst of a season-long, nine-game homestand which started with a 66-52 loss to Lamar on Monday. Following the game, coach Tim Floyd announced his retirement and, on Tuesday, Phil Johnson was appointed the Miners’ interim head coach. Johnson will be leading the bench for the first time since March 8, 2005, when he finished his fourth and final season as the head coach at San Jose State with a 72-48 loss to Hawaii in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
ON THE AIR
The game will be streamed live on Facebook by Stadium with Jason Knapp, Ben Braun and Shae Peppler handling the call. The English radio broadcast is available on KOFX 92.3 FM with Jon Teicher (play-by-play) and Steve Yellen (color) calling the action. A Spanish radio broadcast is available on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM, with Omar Ropele on the mike.
TIM FLOYD RETIRES
Tim Floyd announced his retirement as the Miners’ head coach on Monday following the game versus Lamar at the Haskins Center. Floyd closes out his collegiate coaching career with a record of 466-279, and a 138-99 mark at UTEP. He previously was the head coach at Idaho (1986-88), New Orleans (1988-94), Iowa State (1994-98) and USC (2005-09) prior to returning to UTEP as head coach for the 2010-11 season. He was an assistant coach under Don Haskins at UTEP from 1978-86. Floyd’s teams made eight NCAA Tournament appearances and five trips to the NIT. He was also head coach of the Chicago Bulls (1998-2002) and the New Orleans Hornets (2003-04) in the NBA. The Miners finished 75-43 in Conference USA play under Floyd, with top three finishes on four occasions in seven full seasons (tied for second 2010-11, third 2012-13, tied for second 2014-15, tied for third 2016-17). He ranks second in UTEP history in victories and has coached the second-most games of any UTEP coach (237).
PHIL JOHNSON TAKES OVER
Phil Johnson was named UTEP’s interim men’s basketball coach on Tuesday, following the retirement of Tim Floyd. Johnson has assisted Floyd on the bench at the University of New Orleans (1991-93), with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls (1999-02), at USC (2005-09) and at UTEP (2010-17). He was the head coach at San Jose State for four seasons (1998-99, 2002-05). Johnson has coached in nine NCAA Tournaments and two Final Fours and was a part of the Arizona Wildcats’ national championship run in 1997. Johnson’s record as a head coach against NM State is 0-0.
COACHES’ NEW BEGINNINGS
UTEP coaches have posted a 9-9 record in their debuts. Five straight coaches had won in their opening assignment (Don Haskins, Jason Rabedeaux, Billy Gillispie, Doc Sadler, Tony Barbee) before Tim Floyd dropped his Miner debut to Pacific, 66-61, on Nov. 12, 2010 in the Haskins Center. Only one UTEP coach has tipped off his tenure by facing I-10 rival NM State. Dale Waters had the honor of opening the 1945-46 season versus the Aggies and his team pulled out a 41-36 victory.
ABOUT NM STATE
The Aggies have been idle since beating the Miners on Saturday night and will be facing UTEP back-to-back for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Graduate transfer Zach Lofton, the 2017 SWAC Player of the Year at Texas Southern, is averaging a team-leading 23.8 ppg with a .609 field goal percentage, .467 three-point percentage and .677 free throw percentage. Junior forward Eli Chuha is second on the squad in scoring with 12.6 ppg. Senior forward Jemerrio Jones is averaging 9.2 ppg and 11.6 rpg. NM State has dominated opponents on the glass with a rebound margin of +14.0 per game. NM State ranked third nationally in rebound margin (behind Wichita State and Cincinnati) through the games of Nov. 28. Jones was seventh in rebounding and third in offensive rebounds per game (5.0), and Lofton was eighth in scoring. Chris Jans is in his first year as the head coach at NM State. He previously coached at Kirkwood CC, Independence CC, Howard College and Chipola College in the junior college ranks, and was the head coach at Bowling Green during the 2014-15 season where he compiled a 21-12 record.
NM State Assistant Coach David Anwar was a member of Doc Sadler’s UTEP staff during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. He served as Director of Basketball Operations with the Miners.
This is the longest-running series in school history (215th meeting). NM State leads the series 111-103. The Aggies have won nine of the last 10 games between the rivals and six straight. The Miners’ last victory came by the score of 77-76 on Nov. 22, 2014 in the Haskins Center. The Aggies won in El Paso during the 2015-16 (73-53) and 2016-17 (79-68) seasons. The Miners have a 62-49 advantage in games played in the Sun City. NMSU has won three of the last four games between the teams in the Haskins Center after UTEP won eight of the previous 10.
THE LAST MEETING
Down to only nine scholarship players, including two over 6-7, the UTEP men’s basketball team battled NM State to the end before falling 72-63 on Nov. 25 at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces. The Miners played the Aggies to a 20-20 deadlock in the first 16 minutes before NMSU ended the half with a 9-2 run. UTEP opened the second half with a 12-5 run to tie it at 34. The Aggies outscored the Miners 17-3 over the next five minutes to take their largest lead, 51-37, on a three-pointer by Zach Lofton with 11:56 to go. UTEP was able to get within six three times the rest of the way, the last at 68-62 with 52 seconds remaining, before the Aggies closed it out with free throws. Evan Gilyard scored in double figures for the first time as a Miner, tying Paul Thomas for team-high scoring honors with 14 points. He added five rebounds and two steals. Keith Frazier and Omega Harris added 13 points each for UTEP. Frazier pulled down seven rebounds as the Miners predictably were dominated on the glass, 46-31. NMSU also shot better (43.9 percent to 36.8 percent) and made 10 three pointers, including three from Sidy N’Dir. A key stat in UTEP’s favor was an 18-5 edge in points off turnovers. The Miners had 11 giveaways and 16 takeaways on the night. Lofton, who came in averaging 25.3 points per game, got going late for the Aggies with 13 points over the final 14:18. He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds. N’Dir added 13 points and Wilkins had 10 for NMSU.
MINERS VERSUS THE AGGIES
Senior guard Omega Harris will be playing in his seventh game of the I-10 rivalry on Thursday. His career numbers versus the Aggies are 84 points (14.0 ppg), 19 rebounds (3.2 rpg), seven assists (1.2 apg) and four steals (0.7 spg) with a .468 (29-for-62) field goal percentage, .563 (9-for-16) three-point field goal percentage and .680 (17-for-25) free throw percentage. Junior forward Paul Thomas has faced NMSU on five occasions with 32 points (6.4 ppg), 15 rebounds (3.0 rpg), five assists (1.0 apg), two blocks (0.4 bpg), one steal (0.2 spg), a .483 (14-for-29) field goal percentage and .667 (2-for-3) free throw percentage. Senior forward Jake Flaggert has six career appearances versus the Aggies with 14 points (2.3 ppg), 11 rebounds (1.8 rpg), two blocks (0.3 bpg), one steal (0.2 spg), a .267 (4-for-15) field goal percentage and .267 (4-for-15) three-point percentage. Junior guard Trey Touchet has tallied two assists and a steal in five matchups with NMSU. Keith Frazier, Evan Gilyard, Kobe Magee, Isiah Osborne and Tirus Smith all saw their first action against the Aggies on Nov. 25 in Las Cruces.
Senior center Matt Willms, the Miners’ leading scorer and rebounder, will be out until mid to late December with a spiral fracture in his right hand. The injury occurred late in the Miners’ 76-72 loss to Appalachian State on Nov. 19. Willms is averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks this season, shooting 60.5 percent from the field. He is coming off back-to-back 18-point outings versus South Carolina and Appalachian State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach. His loss leaves the Miners even more short-handed in the frontcourt, with junior forward Paul Thomas and freshman forward Tirus Smith the only scholarship players taller than 6-7.
Lamar made 9-of-14 three-point shots in the first half in blowing out to a 20-point lead, and a late rally by UTEP came up short as the Miners fell to the Cardinals, 66-52, on Monday at the Don Haskins Center. Joey Frenchwood made four three-pointers in the first half and Zjori Bosha made three for the Cardinals, who improved to 2-0 on the road this season with victories at Tulsa and UTEP. The Miners never led after falling behind 13-0 in the first three minutes. UTEP was only down nine (24-15) when Kobe Magee hit a three-pointer with 8:52 remaining in the half. But the Cardinals used a 14-3 run to push their advantage to 20 (38-18). Lamar was comfortably in front the entire second half, despite a frantic finish that saw the Miners pull within nine points with 39 seconds left. UTEP utilized a 15-4 run to trim a 20-point deficit down to 61-52. Trey Wade, returning to the lineup after missing a game with a hyperextended knee, was the only UTEP player in double figures with 13 points. Bosha scored 18 points, Josh Nzeakor 15, Frenchwood 12 and Colton Weisbrod 11 for the Cardinals. Lamar shot 39 percent from the field to UTEP’s 33.3 percent, and the Cardinals outscored the Miners 14-7 in points off turnovers.
CHECKING THE C-USA STATS
Through the games of Nov. 29, UTEP held top-five Conference USA rankings in field goal percentage defense (second, .397), blocked shots (fourth, 4.8 bpg) and scoring defense (fifth, 67.0 ppg). Individually, Isiah Osborne was third in three-point field goal percentage (.538), Keith Frazier was eighth in three-point field goals made per game (2.3) and Trey Wade was 10th in blocks (1.4 bpg).
WADE LEADS THE WAY
For the second straight game, a freshman led UTEP in scoring as Trey Wade put 13 points on the board against Lamar on Monday. On Nov. 25 at NM State, fellow frosh Evan Gilyard tied for team-high honors with 14 points at NM State. UTEP has had a newcomer pace the team in scoring in five of six games this season. For Wade, it was his second double-figure performance as a Miner, with both coming in a reserve role. He scored 10 points off the bench in the opener versus Louisiana College.
BENCH OUTSCORES STARTERS
UTEP received 28 points from its reserves and 24 points from its starters on Monday against Lamar. The Miners actually dominated the bench scoring line versus the Cardinals, 28-2. No UTEP starter scored in double figures against Lamar, marking the first time that has happened since Dec. 19, 2015 versus NM State. UTEP’s bench has outscored the starters twice this season. On Nov. 19 versus Appalachian State, the bench scored 40 points and the starters produced 32 points.
MORE ON THE BENCH STRENGTH
UTEP’s bench is averaging 23.2 points per game this season. UTEP has gotten 40 points from its bench in two games (Louisiana College, Appalachian State). A year ago, the Miners’ season high for bench points was 35. Freshman Trey Wade is the team leader in bench points in 2017-18 (38, 7.6 ppg). Three Miners have scored in double figures in a game off the bench this season with Osborne (17 points) and Trey Wade (10) doing so versus Louisiana College, Keith Frazier (25 points) achieving the feat against Appalachian State, and Wade pouring in 13 points in relief versus Lamar.
SHORING UP THE 3-POINT DEFENSE
UTEP opponents have made at least eight three-point field goals in every game this season, with three teams (Louisiana College, Appalachian State, NM State) connecting on eight triples. But in the final 20 minutes versus Lamar on Monday, the Miners held an opponent without a trifecta in a half for the first time this season (and for the first time since the second game of the 2016-17 campaign). The Cardinals were 0-for-4 from beyond the arc in the second half after shooting a sizzling 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from downtown in the first half.
FRESHMEN POINT GUARDS STEP UP
After taking a few games to get acclimated to the college level, freshmen point guards Evan Gilyard and Kobe Magee have played a more integral role over the last couple of outings. Gilyard has scored 23 points (11.5 ppg) in the last two games. He tied for team-high honors with 14 points at NM State, then hit three threes in the first half against Lamar. He played a season-high 33 minutes versus the Aggies. Gilyard leads the Miners in assists (17), steals (eight) and free throw percentage (.875). Magee recorded his first points of the season against Lamar, while playing his UTEP-high 25 minutes. He also pulled down a career-best five rebounds versus the Cardinals.
UTEP has utilized four different starting lineups in the first six games of the season. Isiah Osborne made his first start as a Miner the last time out versus Lamar. Omega Harris and Paul Thomas are the only players to start each of the first six games.
After putting up subpar numbers in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, junior forward Paul Thomas looked more like himself in round one at NM State. He tied for team-high scoring honors with 14 points (12 in the second half), and pulled down five rebounds in 30 minutes of work. What’s more, Thomas showed off his new diversified game as he made two three-pointers. Entering the contest, Thomas was a combined 0-for-5 from beyond the arc in his first 58 collegiate games.
HARRIS HELPING ON THE BOARDS
Senior guard Omega Harris has made a name for himself by scoring 1,100 points at UTEP, but this year he has been a factor on the glass as well. Harris has pulled down five or more rebounds in four of six games; last season he did so only eight times in 31 contests. Against Appalachian State on Nov. 19, Harris led the Miners in rebounding (five) for the first time in his collegiate career. He followed that up by snaring six rebounds at NM State and five versus Lamar. His career-high for boards is 10 versus Charlotte on March 4, 2017. Harris is averaging 4.5 rebounds in 2017-18, third on the team. He averaged 2.0 rebounds as a freshman, 2.5 as a sophomore and 3.6 as a junior.
Grad transfer Keith Frazier has scored 20+ points twice, has one double-double and another near double-double in the first six games of the season. He scored 25 points versus Appalachian State, had 22 points and 10 rebounds against Boise State and 13 points/nine boards versus Louisiana College. Frazier is second on the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.2 rpg), and third in assists (1.5 apg). Not bad for a guy who had played in only four collegiate games since December of 2015 prior to making his return to the court with the Miners.
FRAZIER’S BIG GAME OFF THE BENCH
Keith Frazier came off the bench for the first time this season versus Appalachian State (Nov. 19) and scored 25 points. It marked the most points by a UTEP reserve since Deon Barrett scored 25 off the pine at New Mexico on Dec. 7, 2016. Before that, the last Miner to score 25+ points off the bench in a game was Randy Culpepper with 25 against UCF on Feb. 11, 2009.
While Jake Flaggert has traditionally been known as the Miners’ resident “charge drawer,” a freshman duo has gotten into the act in 2017-18. Evan Gilyard and Tirus Smith lead the team with four charges drawn each. Together they have accounted for 80 percent (8-of-10) of the Miners’ charges drawn this season.
THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS
While the Miners have been inconsistent offensively while dealing with injuries to key players, the defense has been a constant through six games. Opponents are shooting 39.7 percent from the floor, and UTEP has held four of five Division I opponents well below their scoring average coming into the game. Boise State scored 58 points (97.0 ppg coming in), Appalachian State scored 76 points (98.8 ppg), NM State scored 72 points (79.8 ppg) and Lamar scored 66 points (84.2 ppg).
VETS CARRYING THE LOAD
Including grad transfer Keith Frazier, UTEP has received 51.6 percent of its points (206-of-399), 46.3 percent of its rebounds (93-of-201) and 42.1 percent of its assists (32-of-76) from players who are in their final year in the Orange and Blue. The Miners’ top three scorers are senior Matt Willms (14.8 ppg), Frazier (14.0 ppg) and senior Omega Harris (9.8 ppg). If that holds up, UTEP’s top three scorers would be seniors for the first time since 2010-11 when the top five scorers (Randy Culpepper, Christian Polk, Jeremy Williams, Julyan Stone, Claude Britten) were in their final year of eligibility.
OMEGA & THE UTEP CHARTS
Despite being hampered by a back injury, Omega Harris has continued his climb up the UTEP career charts in 2017-18. He is currently 28th in scoring with 1,100 points. Antonio Davis is his next target on the list (27th place, 1,117 points). Harris is fifth in three-point field goals (133) and chasing Mark Ingles (fourth, 140). He is tied for 15th place in steals (101) with Quintan Gates and Kevin Henderson. With two more takeaways, Harris will move into a tie for 13th place in steals with Eugene Costello and Kimani Jones-Young.
MATT’S BLOCK PARTY
With 107 career blocks, Matt Willms is tied for seventh place in the UTEP record book with Ralph Davis. He is in pursuit of John Tofi, who sits in sixth place with 110 rejections. Willms has blocked 10 shots in only four games this season, and tied his career-high with five versus Boise State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
JAKE TAKES CHARGE
Jake Flaggert led Conference USA in charges drawn in both 2015-16 (18) and 2016-17 (33). He has taken two charges in limited action this season, giving him 59 in his career.
By outscoring Louisiana College 32-0 to start the game in the season opener, UTEP came within two points of tying an NCAA record. On Nov. 29, 1998, Seton Hall led Kean 34-0 to set the standard.
HITTING THE CENTURY MARK
The Miners scored 100 points in a season opener for only the third time against Louisiana College. UTEP scored 109 points versus Fort Lewis and UT-Permian Basin during the 1988-89 and 2003-04 seasons, respectively. The Miners scored 100 points for the 31st time in school history.
THE 2017-18 MINERS
UTEP returns four starters and five letterwinners from last year’s squad that started 2-13 before winning 13 of its final 17 games and tying for third place in Conference USA (12-6 mark). UTEP welcomes back five of its top six scorers from the 2016-17 season headlined by senior guard Omega Harris (17.0 ppg last season) and senior center Matt Willms (11.4 ppg). The only starter lost is Dominic Artis, who last year became the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounds (207), assists (187) and steals (60). Artis, a second team All-Conference USA player, collected 15.0 ppg. The Miners have six scholarship newcomers including two players (Isiah Osborne and Trey Wade) who sat out last season. Also new to the fold are freshmen Evan Gilyard, Kobe Magee and Tirus Smith and graduate transfer Keith Frazier.