Wednesday , December 13 2017
Home | Sports | HP Sports In-Depth: Short-Handed Miners Set to Battle Talented Aggies
“What we need to do is try to figure out how we’re going to go play,” coach Tim Floyd said. “We’ve had a really integral part of our basketball team go down with Matt Willms’ injury...

HP Sports In-Depth: Short-Handed Miners Set to Battle Talented Aggies

After posting an 0-3 mark at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off that could have easily been 2-1 or 3-0, the UTEP Miners will look to regroup at I-10 rival NM State on Saturday night (7 p.m. MT) minus no. 2 scorer and top rebounder Matt Willms.

FirstLight Federal Credit Union is the sponsor of the UTEP-NM State rivalry.

“What we need to do is try to figure out how we’re going to go play,” coach Tim Floyd said. “We’ve had a really integral part of our basketball team go down with Matt Willms’ injury. We’re a team that has always played through the post, post guys have touched it, and we’ve lost three post players here [Willms, Kelvin Jones, Joey St. Pierre] in the last month. So we’re going to have to reconfigure some things with how we’re going to go about it.”

Making the task even more challenging is the fact that NM State (3-1) is one of the nation’s top rebounding teams, and UTEP is down to two scholarship players over 6-7 in junior Paul Thomas and freshman Tirus Smith.

The Aggies have a rebound margin of +13.7 per game and have collected 20+ offensive boards twice in four games. Leading the way is senior forward Jemerrio Jones with 12.8 rebounds per contest.

“We need to go out there and play inspired basketball and try to hold a really good New Mexico State team off the boards,” Floyd said. “They are a terrific, terrific rebounding team — very, very athletic. They’ve got really good guard play. We’re going to have to continue to improve and try to get some younger guys to play more significant minutes.”

NM State is coming off an 89-76 victory over Colorado State on Wednesday at the Pan American Center. The Aggies have won three home games by an average of 19.3 points.

Graduate transfer Zach Lofton, the 2017 SWAC Player of the Year at Texas Southern, is averaging a team-leading 25.3 ppg with a .625 field goal percentage, .500 (12-for-24) three-point percentage and .731 free throw percentage. He scored 30 points versus Colorado State, and 28 versus New Mexico earlier in the year. He was 12-for-15 from the field in Wednesday’s victory while adding eight rebounds. Junior forward Eli Chuha, who scored 24 points off the bench on Wednesday, averages 13.5 ppg and Jones averages 11.5 ppg.

“They are playing with a lot of spirit, a lot of heart,” Floyd said. “They are playing really well on the defensive end. I thought they played well over at Saint Mary’s, a top-20 team, for about 30 minutes in that ballgame. They took that effort and added to it against the Lobos. With [AJ] Harris, a kid who played at Ohio State and Lofton, they have added terrific backcourt play. Jones is one of my favorite players to watch in the country just because of his relentless effort going back to the glass. Chuha and [Johnathon] Wilkins give them an inside presence. This is a talented New Mexico State team.”

As for the Miners, they led Boise State by five points (56-51) with under a minute remaining in the Puerto Rico tourney, but couldn’t close it out as the Broncos scored the game’s final seven points. And they missed a potential game-tying free throw with eight seconds left versus Appalachian State, after leading by as many as seven points earlier in the second half.

“We are coming off a couple of very, very difficult losses which we led and had opportunities to win two ballgames late,” Floyd said. “We didn’t get it accomplished. We’re going to try to figure out some late game situations, try to play a little better in those situations.”

UTEP and NM State is the longest-running series in school history (214th meeting). The Aggies lead the series 110-103.

Four active UTEP players are veterans of the rivalry. Senior guard Omega Harris will be playing in his sixth game against NMSU on Saturday night. His ca¬reer numbers versus the Aggies are 71 points (14.2 ppg), 13 rebounds (2.6 rpg), seven assists (1.4 apg) and four steals (0.8 spg) with a .490 (25-for-51) field goal percentage, .615 (8-for-13) three-point field goal percentage and .619 (13-for-21) free throw percentage.

Junior forward Paul Thomas has faced NMSU on four occasions with 18 points (4.5 ppg), 10 rebounds (2.5 rpg), five assists (1.3 apg), two blocks (0.5 bpg), one steal (0.3 spg), a .474 (9-for-19) field goal percentage and .000 (0-for-1) free throw percentage. Senior forward Jake Flaggert has five career appearances versus the Aggies with 12 points (2.4 ppg), 11 rebounds (2.2 rpg), two blocks (0.4 bpg), a .333 (4-for-12) field goal percentage and .333 (4-for-12) three-point percentage.

Junior guard Trey Touchet has tallied two assists and a steal in four matchups with NMSU.

MINERS IN DEPTH

MINERS, AGGIES RENEW I-10 RIVALRY
UTEP (1-3) will play three of its next four games versus long-time rivals, beginning on Saturday when the Miners take on NM State (3-1) at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces.  FirstLight Federal Credit Union is the sponsor of the UTEP-NM State rivalry.  The Miners will host the Aggies on Thursday, Nov. 30 as part of a season-long nine-game homestand, and New Mexico on Saturday, Dec. 2.  UTEP and NMSU are beginning their two-game set in Las Cruces for the 21st time in the last 27 years.

ON THE AIR
The English radio broadcast is available on KOFX 92.3 FM with Jeff Limberg (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.

ABOUT NM STATE
The Aggies climbed to 3-1 on the young season with an 89-76 victory over Colorado State at the Pan American Center on Wednesday.  NM State also topped East Central (81-55) and New Mexico (75-56) at home, and lost at no. 21 Saint Mary’s (92-74) earlier in the 2017-18 campaign.  Graduate transfer Zach Lofton, the 2017 SWAC Player of the Year at Texas Southern, is averaging a team-leading 25.3 ppg with a .625 field goal percentage, .500 (12-for-24) three-point percentage and .731 free throw percentage.  He scored 30 points versus Colorado State, and 28 against New Mexico.  He was 12-for-15 from the field in Wednesday’s victory while adding eight rebounds.  Senior forward Jemerrio Jones is averaging 11.5 ppg and 12.8 rpg.  He snared 19 boards in the opener versus East Central.  Junior forward Eli Chuha is the third Aggie with a double-figure scoring average (13.5 ppg), and put 24 points on the board (8-for-11 from the floor) against Colorado State.  NM State has dominated opponents on the glass with a rebound margin of +13.7 per game.  The Aggies pummeled East Central (59-30) and New Mexico (50-25) on the boards and compiled 20+ offensive rebounds in each contest.  Chris Jans is in his first year as the head coach at NM State; he peviously 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.

CONNECTIONS
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.

SERIES HISTORY
This is the longest running series in school history (214th meeting).  NM State leads the series 110-103.  The Aggies have won eight of the last nine games between the rivals and five straight.  The Aggies hold a 60-40 lead in meetings in Las Cruces, and 29-21 at the Pan American Center.  UTEP’s last win in Las Cruces came on Nov. 30, 2010 (74-72).

THE LAST MEETING
Ian Baker continued to torment the Miners, scoring 24 points in his final game of the I-10 rivalry as NM State posted a 79-70 victory on Dec. 30, 2016 at the Pan American Center.  Baker made 8-of-14 shots, 6-of-10 three pointers and 2-of-2 free throws while adding four assists as NMSU completed a season sweep of the Miners.  UTEP surprised NM State early by starting the game with a 10-0 run.  The Aggies put together a 17-0 run of their own a little bit later, hitting five three-pointers to turn a 14-5 deficit into a 22-14 lead.  Trailing 38-30 at the half, UTEP scored the first six points of the second half to pull within two (38-36) on a Matt Willms dunk with 18:35 remaining.  Willms scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half.  The Aggies scored the next 11 points, including eight from Baker, to match their biggest lead at 49-36 with 15:10 to go.  The Miners hung around, cutting it to five with 11:45 left and seven in the final 30 seconds.  Dominic Artis went over the 900-point mark for his career, finishing with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists.  Omega Harris added 12 points, and Paul Thomas had eight points and seven rebounds.  The Miners matched the Aggies on the boards (28-28), and made four more field goals (29-25).  NM State received 17 points and 11 rebounds from Jemerrio Jones.  Braxton Huggins scored 15 points and Eli Chuha added 13.  The Aggies shot 60 percent in the first half and 54.3 percent for the game and made 10-of-25 threes (7-of-15 in the first half).  UTEP shot 49.2 percent.

MINERS VERSUS THE AGGIES
Senior guard Omega Harris will be playing in his sixth game of the I-10 rivalry on Saturday night.  His career numbers versus the Aggies are 71 points (14.2 ppg), 13 rebounds (2.6 rpg), seven assists (1.4 apg) and four steals (0.8 spg) with a .490 (25-for-51) field goal percentage, .615 (8-for-13) three-point field goal percentage and .619 (13-for-21) free throw percentage.  Junior forward Paul Thomas has faced NMSU on four occasions with 18 points (4.5 ppg), 10 rebounds (2.5 rpg), five assists (1.3 apg), two blocks (0.5 bpg), one steal (0.3 spg), a .474 (9-for-19) field goal percentage and .000 (0-for-1) free throw percentage.  Senior forward Jake Flaggert has five career appearances versus the Aggies with 12 points (2.4 ppg), 11 rebounds (2.2 rpg), two blocks (0.4 bpg), a .333 (4-for-12) field goal percentage and .333 (4-for-12) three-point percentage.  Junior guard Trey Touchet has tallied two assists and a steal in four matchups with NMSU.

MINERS LOSE WILLMS FOR MINIMUM 2-4 WEEKS
Matt Willms, the Miners’ second-leading scorer and top rebounder, will be sidelined for a minimum 2-4 weeks with a spiral fracture in his right hand.  The injury occurred late in the Miners’ 76-72 loss to Appalachian State on Sunday.  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.

LAST GAME
UTEP erased a 14-point deficit with a 22-2 run to start the second half, but Appalachian State made the big plays down the stretch in a 76-72 victory over the Miners last Sunday at Myrtle Beach.  The Miners  dropped three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, with two losses coming by a total of six points.  Appalachian State shot 8-for-18 from outside in the first half in surging to a 42-28 lead.  But UTEP opened the second half with 16 unanswered points, including a couple of three-pointers by Keith Frazier, to take its first lead at 44-42.  After the Mountaineers’ Justin Forrest tied the game with a couple of free throws, the Miners scored nine of the next 11 and took their biggest lead of the day, 53-46, on another three-pointer by Frazier with 12:38 to go.  The Miners still led by seven (60-53) with a little over eight minutes remaining before Appalachian State mounted its comeback.  The Mountaineers tied it at 62 with 5:52 remaining on a layup by Ronshad Shabazz, and went ahead for good (67-66) on a three-pointer by O’Showen Williams with 4:19 left.  After Appalachian State instated a five-point lead (73-68) in the final minute, the Miners pulled within two (73-71) when Omega Harris was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws.  Shabazz missed two foul shots, and Frazier went to the line with a chance to tie it with eight seconds on the clock.  He made the first and missed the second.  Williams converted two free throws to make it 75-72.  The Miners’ last chance to cut into the lead ended when Isiah Osborne missed the front end of a one-and-one with four seconds remaining.  Frazier scored a game-high 25 points.  Matt Willms added 18 points and Harris had 10.  Williams scored 19 points, Shabazz 12 and Craig Hinton 11 for Appalachian State.  Forrest had 10 rebounds as the Mountainers dominated the Miners on the glass, 43-29.  The Miners scored 25 points off turnovers (21 in the second half), helping to neutralize the Mountaineers’ 10-for-27 night from downtown.

PUERTO RICO TIP-OFF WRAP-UP
Graduate transfer Keith Frazier averaged a team-leading 18 ppg in the Miners’ three Puerto Rico Tip-Off games, shooting 54.3 percent from the field, 40 percent from outside and 72.7 percent from the line.  Matt Willms averaged 15.7 ppg and a team-best 6.0 rpg with a .607 field goal percentage.  He was responsible for eight of the team’s 17 blocked shots.  Omega Harris collected 8.7 ppg.  Freshman forward/guard Trey Wade blocked five shots in the tourney.  Freshman guard Evan Gilyard was the team leader in assists (eight), while Harris topped the squad with five steals.  The Miners averaged 61.3 ppg in the tournament with a .406 field goal percentage and .295 three-point percentage.  Opponents averaged 71.3 ppg, shooting 41 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from beyond the arc.  UTEP’s rebound margin was -4.7 in Myrtle Beach, and the Miners committed six more turnovers (47) than their opponents (41).

MINERS BATTLING SLOW STARTS
After bolting to a 32-0 lead in the season opener versus Louisiana College, UTEP has fallen victim to slow starts in each of the last three games.  The Miners fell behind 19-9 to Boise State (after leading 3-0 through the first five minutes), 19-8 to South Carolina and 16-5 to Appalachian State.  The good news is that UTEP has shown an ability to recover from the early deficits.  Trailing 31-22 at halftime, the Miners laid a 14-1 second-half run on Boise State to take a 48-41 lead.  And they started the second half of the Appalachian State game with a 25-4 spurt to surge in front 53-46, after trailing 42-28 at the midway point.

OH SO CLOSE
The Miners are a handful of plays away from being 3-1 or even 4-0, instead of 1-3.  They led Boise State by five points (56-51) with under a minute remaining, but couldn’t close it out as the Broncos scored the game’s final seven points.  And they missed a potential game-tying free throw with eight seconds left versus Appalachian State, after leading by as many as seven points earlier in the second half.

TURNING THE TURNOVER TABLE
After South Carolina scored 26 points off UTEP turnovers in the second game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Miners flipped the script versus Appalachian State.  UTEP scored 25 points off turnovers (21 in the second half) against the Mountaineers, who only coughed up the basketball 15 times.  The 25 points off turnovers were the most by the Miners in a game since Dec. 17, 2016 versus Northern Arizona (25).

FRAZIER COMES UP BIG OFF THE BENCH
Grad transfer Keith Frazier, who leads the Miners in scoring (16.8 ppg), came off the bench for the first time this season versus Appalachian State and scored 25 points.  It matched the most points by a UTEP reserve under Tim Floyd; 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.

THIS GUY’S PRETTY GOOD
Keith Frazier has scored 20+ points twice, has one double-double and another near double-double in the first four 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.  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.

BENCH STRENGTH
UTEP has gotten 40 points from its bench in two games this season (Louisiana College, Appalachian State).  A year ago, the Miners’ season high for bench points was 35.  Sophomore guard Isiah Osborne is the team leader in bench points in 2017-18 (31, 7.8 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, and Keith Frazier (25 points) achieving the feat against Appalachian State.

SENIORS CARRYING THE LOAD
Including grad transfer Keith Frazier, UTEP has received 58.5 percent of its points (166-of-284), 48.5 percent of its rebounds (65-of-134) and 36.2 percent of its assists (21-of-58) from players who are in their final year in the Orange and Blue.  The Miners’ top three scorers are Frazier (16.8 ppg) and seniors Matt Willms (14.8 ppg) and Omega Harris (9.5 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.

FRESHMEN UNDER FLOYD
Freshmen Evan Gilyard, Kobe Magee, Tirus Smith and Trey Wade have combined for 59 points, 35 rebounds and 21 assists this season.  Here is a look at freshmen production in the Tim Floyd era.

Season (# Freshmen)    Points    Avg.    Rebounds    Avg.    Assists    Avg.
2010-11 (4)    214    6.1    171    4.9    47    1.3
2011-12 (6)    752    23.5    346    10.8    137    4.3
2012-13 (3)    175    5.5    114    3.6    20    0.6
2013-14 (6)    671    19.7    371    10.9    93    2.7
2014-15 (3)    252    7.6    80    2.4    72    2.2
2015-16 (6)    477    14.5    320    9.7    57    1.7
2016-17 (7)    234    7.3    166    5.2    47    1.5
2017-18 (6)*    59    14.8    35    8.8    21    5.3
* includes two walk-ons

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 currently ranks 30th in scoring with 1,079 points.  He is on the verge of passing both Prince Stewart (29th place, 1,090 points) and Terry White (28th place, 1,092 points).  Harris is tied for fifth in three-point field goals (132) with Carl Davis.  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 chasing 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.

A NEAR-RECORD
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 in a game for the second time under coach Tim Floyd (first time 112 points against Marshall on Feb. 4, 2016), and 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.

THE FLOYD ERA
UTEP has posted 138 wins under coach Tim Floyd, who is in his eighth season.  The Miners have fashioned a mark of 75-43 in Conference USA play under Floyd, with top-three finishes on four occasions (tied for second 2010-11, third 2012-13, tied for second 2014-15, tied for third 2016-17).  UTEP has registered double-digit C-USA victories in six of the seven years, including in each of the last five.

THE FLOYD RESUME
Tim Floyd has a career record of 466-277 in his 24th season.  He has the most career wins among active C-USA coaches.  Floyd ranks second in school history in victories (138) behind the legendary Don Haskins (719) and has also coached the second-most games of any UTEP coach (235).  Floyd has enjoyed 20 winning seasons in 23 years as a collegiate head coach.  His teams have made eight NCAA Tournament appearances and five trips to the NIT.  Floyd previously was the head coach at Idaho (1986-88), New Orleans (1988-94), Iowa State (1994-98) and USC (2005-09).  He was also head coach of the Chicago Bulls (1998-2002) and the New Orleans Hornets (2003-04) in the NBA.

DEFENSE UNDER FLOYD
UTEP has allowed less than 70 points 147 times under Tim Floyd (in 235 games), less than 60 points 80 times and less than 50 points on 18 occasions.  The Miners have held 97 teams under 40 percent shooting, posting an 80-17 record.

UTEP Defense Under Floyd
Season    FG-FGA    Pct.    3FG-FGA    Pct.    Pts.    Avg.
2010-11    784-1958    .400    220-718    .306    2225    63.6
2011-12    718-1702    .422    188-565    .333    2019    63.1
2012-13    705-1689    .417    165-486    .340    1970    61.6
2013-14    738-1934    .382    201-681    .295    2152    63.3
2014-15    760-1832    .415    197-586    .336    2104    63.8
2015-16    853-2013    .424    268-796    .337    2471    74.9
2016-17    746-1770    .421    243-718    .338    2202    68.8
2017-18    90-232    .388    36-103    .350    264    66.0
Totals    5394-13130    .411    1518-4653    .326    15407    65.6

MINERS IN NOVEMBER UNDER FLOYD
UTEP has fashioned a mark of 25-21 in the month of November under coach Tim Floyd.  Some of UTEP’s biggest wins of the Floyd era have come in November.  The Miners beat Michigan (65-56) at the Legends Classic in Atlantic City on Nov. 27, 2010.  They knocked off Tennessee (78-70) at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas on Nov. 28, 2013.  They topped eventual NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 participant Xavier (77-73) at the Wooden Legacy Tournament in Fullerton, Calif. on Nov. 28, 2014.  And in 2015, they started 6-0 for the first time in 15 years (all during the month of November), including a 99-90, double overtime triumph over Colorado State to capture the championship at the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic.

MINERS PREP FOR SEASON IN COSTA RICA
UTEP got a head start on the 2017-18 campaign by playing three games in Costa Rica in August.  The Miners also had 10 days of practices prior to departing for San Jose on Aug. 15.  The Miners toured San Jose, visited a local orphanage, sampled the local culture and food, and enjoyed a Zip Line experience in Los Suenos before returning to El Paso on Aug. 21.  On the court, the Miners played three teams from Canada, with 12 of the 13 players on the active roster seeing action (Evan Gilyard was sidelined with a shoulder injury).  Sophomore guard Isiah Osborne led the team in minutes (94, 31.3 avg.), while seven Miners were on the floor for 50 minutes or more.  Osborne and freshman guard Trey Wade paced the squad with 11.3 points per game, while senior center Matt Willms averaged 9.0 ppg, senior guard Omega Harris 8.3 ppg and junior forward Paul Thomas 8.3 ppg.  Osborne was the leading rebounder with 6.0 per game, while Wade posted a double-double in UTEP’s third game versus the University of British Columbia with 16 points and 11 boards.

THE GRADUATES
Two Miners have early earned their degrees and a third is on the way.  Jake Flaggert received his Marketing degree in May of 2017 and is pursuing his Master’s in Business Management.  Matt Willms received his Communication degree in May of 2016 and is pursuing his Master’s in Organizational & Corporate Communication.   Trey Touchet is on track to graduate this December with a degree in Kinesiology.

UTEP PICKED FIFTH
The Miners are picked to finish fifth in Conference USA this season, based on a preseason vote by league head coaches.  Middle Tennessee is projected to win the league (eight first-place votes), followed by UAB (four first-place votes), LA Tech (two first-place votes), Old Dominion, UTEP, WKU, Marshall, Charlotte, UTSA, Southern Miss, North Texas, Florida Atlantic, Rice and FIU.

HARRIS GARNERS PRESEASON ALL-LEAGUE HONORS
Omega Harris is one of 10 players named to the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Preseason Team.  Joining Harris on the squad are Charlotte’s Jon Davis, LA Tech’s Jacobi Boykins and Daquan Bracey, Marshall’s Jon Elmore, Middle Tennessee’s Giddy Potts, Old Dominion’s Ahmad Caver, UAB’s Chris Cokley and William Lee and WKU’s Justin Johnson.

MINERS SIGN FOUR IN NOVEMBER
Jacob Eyman, Avery Martinez, Lamar Norman Jr. and Teddy Ochieng have signed national letters of intent to join the Miner basketball program for the 2018-19 season.  A 6-8, 205-pound power forward, Eyman is a senior at Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School.  He averaged 13.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as a junior, when he was league MVP and earned a spot on the Press-Telegram Dream Team.  He shot 59 percent from the field last season, leading Los Alamitos to a conference title and the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.  He is on pace to become Los Alamitos’ all-time leading shot blocker (131 blocks in 59 career games entering the 2017-18 season) and a top-five rebounder (428 career boards) in school history.  A 6-5, 160-pound shooting guard, Martinez is a senior at Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello, Calif.  Originally from Costa Rica, he was a second team Whittier Daily News All-Area selection and second team All-Southern Section (Division I-AA) last season when he averaged 20 points per game.  Martinez played with the So-Cal All Stars during the 2017 offseason.  A 6-3, 175-pound point guard, Norman is a senior at Godwin Heights High School in Grand Rapids, Mich.  He is rated the 10th-best player in the state of Michigan by 247Sports.  He averaged 21.2 points per game as a junior, garnering Black Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM) Class B All-State honors.  He has led Godwin Heights to a 68-7 record over the last three seasons, including three conference and district titles and the 2015 state championship.  He has averaged 19 points, eight rebounds, 4.5 assists and three steals during his prep career.  A 6-8, 200-pound power forward, Ochieng is a teammate of Martinez at Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School.  Originally from Kenya, Ochieng was a member of his country’s U-18 team.  He is in his first season at Cantwell-Sacred Heart of Mary High School.

THE SCHEDULE
UTEP’s home schedule features matchups with long-time rivals New Mexico and NM State, as well as Washington State from the Pac-12 Conference.  The Lobos will be making their first visit to the Don Haskins Center since January of 2008.  UTEP will host the 56th Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Dec. 21-22 with Howard, North Carolina Wilmington and North Dakota State also taking part.  The Miners will be home for the entire month of December for the first time since 2012, and only the second time since 2005, including a string of nine consecutive home games from Nov. 27-Dec. 30.  The 18-game Conference USA schedule tips off at home versus North Texas on Dec. 28, the earliest date of a league opener since 2001.  It marks only the second time in the modern era (since 1965) that the Miners will launch conference play prior to the new year.

MINERS IN THE DHC
UTEP has posted an all-time record of 540-164 in the Don Haskins Center, which opened in 1977.  The Miners are 94-32 in the Haskins Center under coach Tim Floyd, including 44-18 versus non-conference opponents.

THE TURNAROUND
The Miners put together an amazing run following a 2-13 start to last season, posting a 13-4 mark over the final 17 games to tie for third place in C-USA.  Over the last 17 games, UTEP allowed 65.2 ppg (1,109 points) with a defensive field goal percentage of .394 (380-for-963) and a defensive three-point field goal percentage of .302 (119-for-394).  The Miners shot 48.8 percent (442-for-906) from the floor during that span.

UP NEXT
The Miners will open a season-long nine-game homestand against Lamar on Monday (Nov. 27).  The Cardinals won 19 games last season and participated in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.  Lamar has seven letterwinners and four starters back from that squad.  Senior forward Colton Weisbrod averaged a team-leading 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game a year ago and is a preseason first team All-Southland Conference player.  Lamar, which is picked to finish second in the Southland Conference this season, opened the campaign with a 74-67 victory at Tulsa.

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