UTEP will play the second game of a three-game homestand when Conference USA leader North Texas makes its way to the Don Haskins Center for a 7 p.m. showdown on Thursday, January 10.
The Miners (5-8, 0-2 C-USA) will take on the experienced Mean Green (15-1, 3-0 C-USA), who are off to a hot start in league play.
“They’re good,” first-year UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “Grant [McCasland] has done a great job. He’s put together some really good pieces around guys that he inherited and they gained some valuable experience last year. I think they won 15 games prior to getting to the CBI and once they got into the CBI, they were able to win some games. Anytime you win the CBI, it’s a springboard for the next year. They’ve definitely used it in a very positive manner to start this year.”
Tickets start at $8. UTEP student tickets are free and are available by visiting the student website. Discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more are also available. Call 747-5234 for tickets.
“These young guys need [El Paso’s] support. It does make a difference when we have fans there to support them and get behind them,” Terry said. “Stick with this young group. They’re not going to play perfect, but no team is going to play perfect this year. They’ll give the effort, try to compete, leave it all out there and carry themselves the right way. Come out and support them. Before it’s all said and done, these guys will be good. Jump on the wagon now when it’s tough. It’s the best part of the process, because it is a process.”
UTEP has started league play with back-to-back losses to Texas rival UTSA. The Roadrunners raced past the Miners, 75-60, on Jan. 3 in San Antonio. The Miners responded with a big first half in the El Paso rematch, taking a 40-33 lead into the locker room behind eight three-point buckets. But UTSA’s defense slowed down UTEP in the second half, and the Roadrunners won the contest 67-63.
Efe Odigie, ranked no. 1 in C-USA in rebounds per game, posted back-to-back 16-rebound games and averaged 13.5 points against UTSA. Odigie’s 12-game double-digit scoring streak ended on Saturday, but the big man is the lone C-USA basketball player averaging a double-double this season (15.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg).
Fellow freshman Nigel Hawkins averaged 15.0 points and 9.0 rebounds against UTSA. Hawkins tallied a career-high 21 points in San Antonio and a career-best four assists in the Haskins Center. Evan Gilyard, who ranks no. 1 in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.436), added another pair of double-digit scoring performances, going for 14 points in the first contest and 18 on Saturday night.
North Texas is off to an undefeated start in league play, winning at Rice (103-87) and versus LA Tech (63-59) and Southern Miss (65-62). The Mean Green boasts a prolific offense that ranks no. 1 in multiple categories in C-USA.
UNT’s field goal percentage (48.4), scoring margin (15.3), three-point field goal percentage (38.4) and made three-point field goals (146) all rank first in the league. North Texas averages 76.8 points per game, ranking fourth in C-USA, while its scoring defense (61.6 ppg) ranks second in C-USA and 18th nationally.
McCasland, in his second season at the helm with North Texas, has assembled a dangerous shooting squad. Redshirt freshman guard Umoja Gibson has been one of the league’s premier shooters as he ranks second in three-point shooting percentage (.430).
Four other UNT guards have been hot from three-point range as senior Jorden Duffy (26-86), senior Michael Miller (21-45), junior Roosevelt Smart (20-61) and redshirt junior DJ Draper (19-35) have all displayed range. Junior guard Ryan Woolridge leads the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) and assists (83).
Besides contending with UNT’s sharpshooting, the Miners will have to work the glass on Thursday against a good rebounding Mean Green squad.
“You’re talking about a team that is plus-six on the glass coming in, they’re a team that does a really good job of rebounding with all five guys coming to the glass,” Terry said. “We’re going to have to come out and do the things we practice every day, which is to have physical block outs and, obviously, hit your guy, go fetch the basketball and run it down with two hands.”
UTEP will end the homestand with a Saturday night contest against Rice with tipoff set for 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
Promotions for Thursday and Saturday Night
Wear blue for the North Texas game and pick up a game program for the chance to receive one of 1,000 replica jerseys. Two lucky fans will shoot to win $1,000 at the North Texas game (Allstate Money Ball Giveaway).
Fans who register at the Allstate table at each designated men’s basketball game (vs. North Texas, Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic and FIU) will have a chance to be a contestant. Two contestants will be randomly picked. The Rice game features a Miners Got Talent halftime performance.
Fans can listen live on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellin. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez.
The contest will also be streamed on ESPN+ with Duke Keith (play-by-play) and former Miner Leonard Owens calling the action.