After 11 days between games and a tough battle at Big East power Marquette, the UTEP men’s basketball team (3-5) will return to the hardwood, as it will host UC Riverside (3-7) on Sunday, December 16 with a 1 p.m. tipoff in the Don Haskins Center.
The Miners, after completing finals, will be ready to hit the court since their last contest was played on December 4 at Marquette.
“When we got back from our road trip [Milwaukee], we gave our guys a couple days off so they could prepare for what they have ahead of them in terms of an academic load and continue to work on basketball as well,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We knew we would have time to work on things to continue to get better with, whether it was rebounding, working on some offensive details and continuing to work on fundamentals.”
UTEP and UC Riverside will face each other for the third time. The Miners defeated the Highlanders 52-41 on November 23, 2011 and 95-55 on January 2, 2007 as both contests were played in the Don Haskins Center.
Terry faced the Highlanders once while at Fresno State as the Bulldogs won 39-30 on November 14, 2012.
During UTEP’s previous contest, Jordan Lathon came up with a huge performance against Marquette on national television. The freshman registered career highs in points (26), assists (six), field goals (eight), three-point field goals (three) and made free throws (seven) in 36 minutes of action. Lathon added two steals (eight in the last four games), while guarding Golden Eagles’ potent scorer Markus Howard, who finished 6-for-17 overall and 2-of-8 from three-point range.
Fellow freshman Efe Odigie also produced a solid outing, as he picked up his third double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) against MU. Odigie connected on a career-high eight field goals (13 attempts), while tying his career best by snagging a pair of steals. Ountae Campbell, who’s been a big addition to the lineup, played a season-high 26 minutes off the bench.
The Golden Eagles took a 17-point lead early in the second half. But the fighting Miners outscored MU 37-27 the rest of the contest, only to lose 76-69. UTEP cut the deficit to four points with over six minutes remaining in the contest after a made jump shot by Lathon. But Marquette connected on 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to pull away.
Evan Gilyard scored 10 points against Marquette. The sophomore leads the Miners, while ranking ninth in Conference USA at 18.0 points per game. Odigie tops the squad at 8.8 rebounds per game, and ranks third in C-USA.
Odigie ranks second on the squad at 14.6 points per game. Lathon paces the team with 22 assists, while he and Nigel Hawkins have each tallied eight steals. Kaosi Ezeagu leads the Miners with six blocked shots.
“We’re going to get a quality opponent coming in in UC Riverside and David Patrick [UCR Head Coach] is in his first year there and doing an outstanding job. It’s going to be a well-coached team,” Terry said. “He’s got a couple of big guys that do a great job getting offensive rebounds and second-chance scoring opportunities. He’s also got a couple of guards that can put the ball in the basket. [Dikymbe] Martin is like that kid [Markus] Howard from Marquette and can really light it up. They do a good job defending as well.”
The Highlanders are coming off 75-71 victory against Pepperdine on Dec. 6. Martin, a junior guard, scored 22 points (4-5 from three-point range), while 7-foot senior center Menno Dijkstra added 22 points and six rebounds. Martin heads up the squad at 16.3 points per game, while sophomore guard Jordan Gilliam averages 8.9 points per contest and leads the team at 4.2 rebounds per game. Dijkstra averages 8.2 points per game.
Overall, the Highlanders are shooting over 43 percent and averaging 63.4 points per game. UCR yields 69.9 points per game and has allowed its opponents to shoot 33.5 percent (61-182) from beyond the arc.
The Highlanders’ other two victories came against UC Merced (63-53 on Nov. 17) and Elon (77-64 on Nov. 23). UCR opened the season with losses at Oregon State (72-59 on Nov. 6), at Portland State (71-64 on Nov. 10) and at UNLV (72-51 on Nov. 13). Prior to beating Pepperdine, the Highlanders fell against Abilene Christian (60-48 on Nov. 24), at Cal Baptist (80-70 on Nov. 29) and at Valparaiso (82-73 on Dec. 2).
Single-game tickets, starting at $8, are available by calling (915) 747-5234. Fans can listen live on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez.
The Miners and Highlanders can also be seen on the CUSA.TV live stream.