Photo by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta
With more than half of Conference USA play in the books, the UTEP Miners will look to finish their league slate strong as they host Florida Atlantic on “Texas Western Night”, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
Tickets start at $8. UTEP student tickets are free and are available by visiting the website. Discounted tickets for groups of 15 or more are also available. Call (915) 747-5234 for tickets.
Thursday’s game will feature a special halftime recognition of UTEP attaining a coveted R1 designation (top tier doctoral university with very high research activity) in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. GECU Foundation representatives will be on hand to make a $50,000 scholarship donation to UTEP President Diana Natalicio.
The first 400 fans will receive a commemorative t-shirt on “Texas Western Night.” Two lucky fans will shoot to win $1,000 courtesy of Ricardo Estrada’s Allstate Agency. For more information or to register, fans can visit the website.
With four games remaining till “C-USA Bonus Play,” the Miners (7-14, 2-8 C-USA) will host the Owls (13-10, 4-6 C-USA) on Thursday and FIU on Saturday.
The Miners will play at LA Tech and Southern Miss next week prior to the announcement of the remaining league schedule.
Florida Atlantic (Dusty May) and FIU (Jeremy Ballard), as with the Miners, have first-year head coaches.
“Both guys have done a great job, had a pretty good returning cast and put a couple pieces around them,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “I give them credit, they’ve done a good job this year. We’re excited about being back home to play them and see if we can right the ship and get better.”
The Miners are coming off a pair of road setbacks, falling in a high-scoring contest at Marshall, 91-86, last Thursday and at WKU, 76-59, on Saturday.
Efe Odigie set a UTEP freshman record by registering his ninth double-double of the season after scoring 22 points on a career-high 10 field goals and grabbing a career-best 20 boards against the Thundering Herd. Odigie became the first Miner to register a 20-20 game since Jim Barnes put up 34 points and 20 rebounds versus UT-Pan American on Feb. 22, 1964.
Fellow freshman star Nigel Hawkins averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 rebounds during his last two outings. Hawkins tallied 22 points at Marshall, his third 20-point effort against a league opponent on the road. He added eight rebounds and a career-high four steals. At WKU, Hawkins scored 17 points, his fifth double-digit performance in conference action.
The Owls are coming off 1-1 week, in which they beat LA Tech (69-61) on Jan. 31 followed by a 74-72 loss to Southern Miss on Feb. 2. Graduate student forward Xavian Stapleton came off the bench for FAU and averaged a team-high 18.5 points in the two contests. He scored 18 points against the Golden Eagles, while senior guard Anthony Adger led the Owls with 19 points and five assists. Adger is averaging 16.8 points, 4.0 boards and ranks fourth in C-USA in three-point field goals per game (3.0).
Stapleton is putting up 13.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest. First-year head coach Dusty May has depended on a pair of freshmen as guard Michael Forrest averages 9.3 points and leads FAU with 69 assists (3.0 per game). Fellow classmate forward Jaylen Sebree averages 9.4 points per outing. The Owls average 73.1 points per game and give up just over 70 points.
Florida Atlantic is one of the premier free throw shooting teams in C-USA, ranking second at 73.2 percent (290-396) from the charity stripe. FAU, which has a +4.8 rebound margin, ranks first in the league in rebounds per game (40.3) and offensive rebounds per game (12.7). The Owls rank second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage defense (32.0) and fifth in turnovers forced per game (13.9).
The Miners will host FIU on Saturday, as tipoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday’s contest will feature the Block Cancer initiative, in which The Mike Slive Foundation partnered with C-USA and UTEP. The Miners will wear blue Block Cancer t-shirts in pregame, while coach Terry will wear a special blue tie.
During the game, fans will see signage and videos that focus on increasing awareness for prostate cancer. Fans will also have the opportunity to donate by texting GIVE to (855) 662-2996, or online.
Fans can listen on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steven Yellen. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez. The contest will also be streamed on CUSA.TV.