The UTEP men’s basketball teamwill make their return to their home court when they host Southern Miss on Thursday, January 9. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
UTEP (9-6, 0-2 Conference USA) and Southern Miss (4-11, 0-2 C-USA) are off to winless starts in league action. The Miners came up short, losing at FIU, 69-67, and at Florida Atlantic, 59-56. The Golden Eagles lost a pair to LA Tech, 80-49, in Hattiesburg and 78-50 in Ruston, La.
The Miners are 8-0 in El Paso this season, while Southern Miss is 0-8 (0-5 on the road) away from Hattiesburg. UTEP has started the season 8-0 at home for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
The last time a Miner team started its home season with more than eight straight wins was in 1988-89 when they went undefeated (18-0) in the Haskins Center.
Second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry, who was admitted to a Miami area hospital on Jan. 1, will make his return to the bench for the Miners after missing two games.
“I’m excited about being here. I’m excited about getting a chance to be back with our team, and getting our team up and going,” Terry said. “Our team is excited about continuing to compete.”
Even though one road team was victorious (North Texas at Marshall on Jan. 4) to open C-USA play this past weekend, Terry thinks home court advantage in league play isn’t necessarily an advantage.
“Being at home is not enough. I think in our league, on any given night, if you’re not ready to play anybody can beat anybody,” Terry said. “We know being at home isn’t enough and we have to outcompete teams for 40 minutes.”
But with UTEP coming off narrow losses on the road, the Miners can gain the home advantage by working on details.
“We need to get better in practice every day and challenge each other the get better in practice every day,” Terry said. “But there is a lot of basketball to be played and we have to do that every 40 minutes by 40 minutes. We need to take care of the ball and clean some things up. We need to fix our rebounding and work harder for those.”
Jordan Lathon will also make his return to the program after announcing his return to the program Jan. 6. The sophomore guard missed time due to a family matter. Lathon leads the Miners with 37 assists in 13 games started.
Bryson Williams leads UTEP in points per game (18.4) and rebounds per game (6.7) and recorded his third double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) at Florida Atlantic on Jan. 4. Kaden Archie, who made his first collegiate start at FAU, is averaging 8.3 points per game and has 10 rebounds during his last four games. Archie shot 3-of-5 from the field, including a three and went 2-for-2 from the line, scoring nine points versus the Owls.
Southern Miss got off to a slow start this season under first-year head coach Jay Ladner. The Golden Eagles finished 4-9 in nonconference play as they have faced to tough competition in Gonzaga, Seton Hall, Alabama, Iowa State and Texas Tech. Gabe Watson is USM’s leading scorer (13.1 ppg), while Tyler Stevenson (11.9 ppg), Boban Jacdonmi (10.8 ppg) and LaDavius Draine (10.7 ppg) each average double-figures. Jacdonmi paces the squad at 5.7 rebounds per game, while Jay Malone has a team-high 62 assists (4.1 apg).
UTEP owns a 16-14 edge in the series. Southern Miss defeated the Miners, 77-47, in Hattiesburg on Feb. 16, 2019 during the lone meeting last season. The Golden Eagles have won 10 of the last 15 matchups and nine of the last 13.
The two programs last met in the Haskins Center on Feb. 24, 2018 with the Miners cruising past the Golden Eagles, 73-44. UTEP is 12-2 versus Southern Miss in El Paso, including 9-1 since joining Conference USA.
Overall the Miners are 13-12 against the Golden Eagles since becoming a member of C-USA. The Miners and Golden Eagles first met on Dec. 29, 1950 in the Sun Carnival Classic.
Fans can also listen live on 600 ESPN El Paso with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher (play-by-play) and former UTEP basketball player Steve Yellen (color analysis) calling the action.
The contest will also be streamed on ESPN+ with El Paso Athletics Hall of Famer Duke Keith (play-by-play) and Miner great Leonard Owens (color analysis) on the mic.