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Home | Tag Archives: floyd

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UTEP Basketball Team to Prep for 2017-18 Season in Costa Rica

The UTEP men’s basketball team will look to blend a mix of returning talent with promising newcomers when it plays three preseason games in Costa Rica this August.

“The significance of this is that we have a terrific group coming in, seven new players that will be added to our core group of returners,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said on Wednesday.  “This trip gives us a tremendous opportunity to bring these young guys along and get them better.”

The trip is slated for Aug. 15-20, and fans are invited to join the team in Central America.  Travel packages will be available for purchase, with details forthcoming.

Floyd said the teams the Miners face will be composed of professionals from Central and South America, as well as “the best players Costa Rica can offer.”

College basketball teams are permitted to take a foreign tour once every four years.  This will be the first foreign tour by a UTEP men’s basketball squad since the 2005-06 club traveled to Spain and the Canary Islands.

Perhaps the best thing about the tour, besides the cultural and game experience, is the fact that the Miners will get 10 days of practice in El Paso ahead of time.

“It gives our team a chance to get off to a better start than we had last year,” Floyd said.

The 2016-17 Miners rallied from a 2-13 start to finish 13-4 and tie for third place in Conference USA with a 12-6 mark.

Miner’s Miracle Season Ends with 82-56 Loss to Middle Tennessee

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – Middle Tennessee turned in a stifling defensive effort and took advantage of 18 UTEP turnovers in ending the Miners’ season with an 82-56, Conference USA Championship semifinal victory on Friday at Legacy Arena.

The Blue Raiders (29-4) avenged a 57-54 loss at UTEP in early February while setting a school record for victories and advancing to Saturday’s title game.  The Miners’ season ends at 15-17.  UTEP started the year 2-13 before finishing 13-4 and tying for third place in C-USA.

“Middle Tennessee is a terrific team,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “If the NCAA does not take them to the tournament should something negative go on tomorrow, there’s a real, real problem with that.  They led our league in basically every statistical category, and those same categories they won tonight – assist/turnover ratio, rebounding margin, defensive points allowed, and they did a great job in all those areas.”

The Blue Raiders scored 25 points off UTEP turnovers.  Middle Tennessee reverted to form following an uncharacteristic performance in El Paso where the Miners scored 15 points off 19 Blue Raider giveaways.

Middle Tennessee also outrebounded UTEP 41-30, with 12 offensive rebounds leading to 10 second-chance points.  The Miners shot 39.2 percent from the field, as Middle Tennessee neutralized senior guard Dominic Artis (six points, 2-for-10 field goals) in his final college game.

“They’ve got a well-coached team,” Floyd said.  “They play well together, they move the ball well, and they force turnovers that other teams in our league don’t.  They forced a lot of turnovers today with our ballclub. I thought our kids tried.  We just weren’t very good today, and it had a lot to do with Middle Tennessee and their approach to the game.”

The Miners led once, at 2-0.  They hung in for the first 10 minutes, trailing 17-12.  Then the Blue Raiders scored six consecutive points – a three-point play by Reggie Upshaw, a three-pointer by Xavier Habersham – and pushed the lead to 11 (23-12).  UTEP got within seven (25-18) on two free throws by Omega Harris with 4:38 remaining in the half.  Middle Tennessee answered with six in a row once again.  At halftime, the Blue Raiders led 37-23.

The Miners fell behind 40-23 to start the second half.  They got within 15 twice, but that was it as the Blue Raiders blew out to a 29-point lead.

Reggie Upshaw, very quiet in the El Paso matchup, led the Blue Raiders with 18 points and eight rebounds. Giddy Potts scored 14, JaCorey Williams 13 and Antwain Johnson 11 off the bench.  The Blue Raiders recorded 16 assists, including a game-high five from Tyrik Dixon, and nine turnovers.  Potts swiped five of Middle Tennessee’s 12 steals, the most by a UTEP opponent this season.

Paul Thomas had an excellent game for the Miners.  He scored 18 points, making 7-of-10 shots and 4-of-6 free throws.  Harris scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half.

Artis, so good during the Miners’ 13-4 run to close out the season, ended his college career with 1,215 points, 484 rebounds, 502 assists and 163 steals.  He is the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounds, assists and steals in a season.   His 187 assists this season are third-most in school history.

UTEP will add a host of reinforcements to a solid nucleus of returning players for 2017-18.  The book closes on a truly inspirational 2016-17 campaign.

“It flipped from being a really, really poor basketball team through the first week in January to a team that was a real problem for people the last couple of months,” Floyd said.  “It’s a real testament to guys taking responsibility for their inadequacies, coaches as well, and not pointing the finger, making the determination to self-improve and what can come from that when you’ve got a common goal in mind.  I was extremely, extremely proud of our team.”

The Miners finish the season with Harris averaging 17.0 ppg, Artis 15.0 ppg, Matt Willms 11.4 ppg and Thomas 8.6 ppg.  Jake Flaggert took 33 charges.  Deon Barrett, Kelvin Jones and Trey Touchet grew in leaps and bounds off the bench.

“I came in here every single day the last two months knowing that it was a team committed to getting better,” Floyd said.  “It transferred into wins, and it transferred into great camaraderie.  Dominic Artis should get the lion’s share of the credit for that, being a senior.  He chose not to play for himself, but to try to keep us organized and play with heart.  I thought he did that.

“I told the guys in the locker room, I don’t recall one of my teams where I could look at the seven guys who were playing a lot at the end of the season and say, ‘Each one of you guys improved as much as any guy that I’ve had on any team.’  Every single guy got better, and they were fun to work with.”

HP Sports in Depth: Miners Look to Continue Miracle Season Friday vs Middle Tennessee

The Fourth seed UTEP Miners (15-16) meet top seed Middle Tennessee (28-4) in the semifinals of the 2017 Conference USA Championships.  The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network with tip-off at 10:30 a.m. MT on Friday morning.

The Miners advanced in the tournament with an 86-76 quarterfinal victory over Rice on Thursday.  Earlier in the day, Middle Tennessee upended UTSA 86-70.  The winner will advance to the championship game on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. MT/7:30 p.m. CT (CBS Sports Network).

UTEP has won 13 of its last 16 games, while Middle Tennessee has won 18 of its last 19; with the lone loss during that stretch coming at UTEP (57-54) on Feb. 4.  The Miners overcame a 17-point second half deficit in that game to tie for their biggest comeback victory under coach Tim Floyd.

UTEP is 13-11 in C-USA Championship games, reaching the semifinals in 2006, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2017 and the final in 2010 and 2011. The Miners’ all-time conference tournament record is 40-26 (includes a forfeit against Hawaii in the 1996 WAC Tournament).  UTEP captured WAC Tournament crowns in 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 2005.

UTEP is 8-4 all-time as a no. 4 seed in conference tournaments.  The Miners are trying to make the final for the fourth time in six appearances as a no. 4 seed.

SERIES NOTES

–    UTEP leads the series 3-2.
–    The teams are meeting in the C-USA Championship semifinals for the second time in three years.  On March 13, 2015, the sixth-seed Blue Raiders upset the no. 2 seed Miners, 53-50, in Birmingham.  The Miners led for much of the game, and 35-31 with a little over 10 minutes remaining before the Blue Raiders went on a game-changing 11-0 run.
–    Players on this year’s rosters who appeared in that game are Giddy Potts, Edward Simpson and Reggie Upshaw for Middle Tennessee, and Omega Harris and Matt Willms for UTEP.  Upshaw had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Middle Tennessee.

THE DAVIS/FLOYD CONNECTION

–    UTEP’s Tim Floyd and Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis were on the same coaching staff at Idaho for two seasons (1986-88).  Floyd was the head coach and Davis was an assistant at the time.
–    The Vandals were 35-25 during those two years and were runner-up in the Big Sky Conference in 1987-88 while finishing 19-11.
–    When Floyd left to take the New Orleans job for the 1988-89 season, Davis took over as head coach and orchestrated back-to-back 25-6 campaigns.  Idaho appeared in the NCAA Tournament in both 1989 and 1990 under Davis, losing a first-round game each time.

UTEP 57, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 54 (FEB. 4)

–    Matt Willms scored nine of his 14 points in a game-ending 19-6 run as UTEP handed Middle Tennessee its lone conference loss of the season at the Haskins Center.
–    UTEP trailed 39-22 with 14:08 remaining.  The Miners outscored Middle Tennessee 35-15 over the final 13:46, holding the Blue Raiders to six field goals during that span.  Middle Tennessee scored one field goal in the final six minutes, when it was outscored 15-4.
–    The Miners made 9-of-10 foul shots in the second half and 15-for-18 for the game, none bigger than Willms’ two with eight seconds left that pushed a 55-54 lead to 57-54.
–    After falling behind by 17, the Miners scored 11 consecutive points to pull within six (39-33).  Middle Tennessee extended the lead back to double digits and was ahead 48-38 when Brandon Walters scored with 7:26 remaining. Then the Miners mounted their run.
–    Willms scored five points in a 9-0 run that turned a 50-42 deficit into a 51-50 lead.  When Omega Harris hit a jumper with 2:27 to play, the Miners had their first lead since it was 1-0.
–    JaCorey Williams, who was a one-man wrecking crew for Middle Tennessee with 24 points and 10 rebounds, put the Blue Raiders ahead 52-51 on a jumper with 2:09 to go. He gave them a 54-53 lead by splitting two free throws with 37 seconds left.
–    The Miners did the rest of their damage at the foul line, as Harris made two free throws with 22 seconds left and, after Edward Simpson missed a three-pointer, Willms made two more with eight seconds remaining.  Middle Tennessee’s Giddy Potts missed a three pointer at the buzzer.
–    Dominic Artis collected 13 points, seven rebounds and four steals.  Paul Thomas had 10 points and six rebounds.
–    Williams made 10-of-15 shots and 4-of-5 free throws for Middle Tennessee.  But the Blue Raiders’ other stars, Reggie Upshaw (zero points, one rebound in 23 minutes) and Potts (nine points, 3-for-11 from the field) were held in check.
–    Middle Tennessee uncharacteristically turned it over 19 times, which was the equalizer on a night where it shot 48.9 percent to UTEP’s 41.3.
–    The Miners trailed 27-16 following a miserable offensive first half where they shot 20.8 percent (5-for-24), 0-for-7 from three-point range.  In the second half, UTEP shot 63.6 percent led by Willms, who was 5-for-7 from the field.

UTEP NOTEBOOK

–    Dominic Artis led the Miners in points (26), rebounds (10) and assists (six) for the second time this season against Rice on Thursday.  The first time was versus Southern Miss on Feb. 11.  Overall it marked the fourth time he has achieved the feat in two seasons at UTEP.
–    Artis’ .769 (10-for-13) field goal percentage against Rice was his best in a Miner uniform; previous best (minimum 10 attempts) was .688 (11-for-16) at Marshall on Jan. 28.
–    Artis scored a season-high 26 points versus Rice.  It was the second-most points in his college career behind the 33 he scored versus Marshall on Feb. 4, 2016.
–    Artis’ next assist will be the 500th of his collegiate career.
–    Artis has scored in double figures in 13 straight games, a career-long streak.
–    Omega Harris picked up his ninth 20-point game of the season on Thursday, most by a UTEP player since Randy Culpepper had 17 in 2010-11.
–    Against Rice, Jake Flaggert drew his 32nd charge of the season and the 56th of his career.
–    Trey Touchet scored in double figures off the Miner bench for the third time in four games versus Rice.
–    The Miners’ 86 points versus the Owls were their most in a C-USA Tournament game.  The previous best was 85 points twice, against FIU and Marshall a year ago.
–    UTEP led wire-to-wire for the third time this season against Rice.  The Miners also led from start to finish versus the Owls on Feb. 18 in Houston, and on March 4 against Charlotte.

Miners Build Big Lead, Hold On To Beat Rice in C-USA Quarters 86-76

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – UTEP played a dominant first half – racing out to a 49-29 lead – then played through a deluge of foul calls and hung on for an 86-76 victory over Rice in the C-USA Championship quarterfinals on Thursday at Legacy Arena.

The Miners (15-16) played about as well as could be over the first 20 minutes, scoring their second-most points in a half this season and shooting 61.3 percent from the field.  Rice (22-11) shot 26.7 percent and UTEP crushed the Owls on the boards, 25-13.

In the second half, a total of 34 fouls were called – 17 on both teams – and 43 free throws were shot.  Jake Flaggert, Paul Thomas, Matt Willms and Kelvin Jones all fouled out.  Thomas played 15 minutes and Willms played 10.  Ivan Venegas played a career-high nine minutes.

And through it all the Miners survived to meet top seed Middle Tennessee (28-4) in Friday’s semifinals.  The game will tip at 10:30 a.m. MT/11:30 a.m. CT and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

Dominic Artis was simply brilliant for the Miners, scoring 26 points – a season-high – and making 10-of-13 shots.  He added 10 rebounds and six assists.  Omega Harris scored 21 points with six boards.  Willms had 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks in limited playing time.  Trey Touchet scored 10 points off the bench.

Rice was led by Marcus Evans, who scored 21 points.  But 13 of them came at the line.  Once again, the Miners held the Owls’ big three of Evans/Egor Koulechov/Marcus Jackson in check.  Combined they scored 39 points, but were 9-for-27 from the field.  Rice shot 33.9 percent from the game and finished 10-for-28 from three-point land.

“I thought D.A., Omega, Jake and Trey all did a great job of trying to close to their shooters,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “The 10-for-28 [three-point shooting] is something that we can live with in that game.  The 33 percent we gave up from the floor is why we won.

“We had a lot of things that we had to play through tonight.  Our bigs played well, they just didn’t play very long.  We had guy after guy after guy fouling out.  Four guys were out and Ivan Venegas had to play a lot of minutes.  We had guys playing minutes that hadn’t played.  I thought what kept us balanced throughout was the guard play by Dominic and Omega.  They kept us solid.  We made good decisions with the ball in our hands.  We had to play some lengthier possessions and we ended up making shots at the end of those possessions.”

The Miners jumped on the Owls early.  They scored the game’s first nine points and led 14-4 about four minutes in.  Rice battled back and when Koulechov hit two free throws with 6:25 remaining in the half, it was a 29-24 game.  UTEP closed the half with a 20-5 run and the Owls were buried, down 20.

“[The first half] was terrific.  It really was terrific,” Floyd said.  “Matt and Paul were protectors down at the rim and [the other] three guys had the job of just trying to no-catch those guys.  That put them in a drive game and might’ve had something to do with us picking up a foul or two.  But they did an excellent job of putting Evans and Jackson in situations that maybe they hadn’t been in.

“I thought what keyed it all was defensive transition in the first half, getting back and locating those guys because they’re special in that area – catch and shoot Koulechov, catch and shoot Jackson and Evans.  Our bigs did a nice job.”

With Thomas, Willms and Jones all playing five minutes or fewer in the second half, Rice was able to get back in it.  The Owls outscored UTEP 47-37 after halftime and outrebounded the much smaller Miners 20-16.  But they never could get closer than nine points.

The Miners shot 56 percent for the game.  Their 86 points bested the school C-USA Tournament record by one.  They outrebounded the Owls 41-33 and outscored them 38-14 in the paint.  In a surprise, UTEP had an 18-9 edge in bench points against the deeper Owls.

“We rebounded it tonight,” Floyd said.  “I thought Omega had a couple of back-to-back plays in the first half – a lob pass to Matt Willms for a dunk, and then one more pass on the next possession.  He caught the ball in the corner, kicked it back to Trey wide open at the wing.  I thought the whole game was good shot versus great shot, good shot versus great shot.  D.A. was excellent finishing, excellent dishing off of takes, and Omega as well.  It was guard play, and I thought our guards played as well as they have all year.”

UTEP Stands to Make History with Success at C-USA Tournament

When UTEP takes the floor against Rice today in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA men’s basketball tournament, it will mark the culmination of a momentous feat.

That the Miners enter competition at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, after a first-round bye is nothing short of remarkable. UTEP secured the No. 4-seed in the tournament after a disastrous start to the 2016-17 season by reeling off 12 wins in its last 15 games. Should the Miners (14-16, 12-6 in C-USA) continue their hot streak to become C-USA tournament champions — and NCAA tournament participants — it will mark something historic.

No team that has lost 12 consecutive regular season games has made the Big Dance. While the task to become the first won’t be simple, there is reason to believe the Miners — who dropped a dozen consecutive contests from Nov. 20 to Jan. 7 — can waltz their way to the field of 68.

The berth would top Coppin State’s run to the 2008 tournament. The Eagles lost 11 straight regular season games before winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament to earn a spot in a No. 16-seed play-in game against Mount St. Mary’s. The 1998-99 Florida A&M team is the only other squad to make the tournament despite having a double-digit losing streak (10).

“It’s an exciting time of the year, not only for us but the other 11 teams that are going to be in the tournament,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said in statement. “Everybody is hopeful. In our case, we have given ourselves a path that is a little easier, only having to play three games to get to the NCAA tournament versus four.”

That path begins with Rice, which advanced to the second round after beating Southern Miss, 86-75, on Wednesday. The Miners have beaten the Owls 17 times in their last 21 meetings. UTEP most recently beat Rice, 79-71, on Feb. 18 in Houston. The Miners have advanced in seven consecutive C-USA tournaments and eight of the last nine.

Their lone opening-round ouster came as a No. 4-seed against Houston in 2009.

If the Miners advance to the semifinals, they will likely face No. 25 Middle Tennessee. The No. 1-seed Blue Raiders won the C-USA regular-season title with 17-1 conference record (27-4 overall). Their lone blemish? That came in El Paso on Feb. 4 in a 57-54 upset. If UTEP can repeat that success, it would have one more team to go through before giving head coach Tim Floyd his first berth with the Miners in the NCAA tournament.

Floyd has had high-profile detractors during his seventh season in El Paso. Most notable among them were the group of fans holding “Fire Floyd” signs in the Don Haskins Center who were confronted by former UTEP head football coach Mike Price. That came in December, in the midst of the Miners’ losing streak.

The signs vanished as the season progressed, replaced by an unprecedented surge to the league’s upper echelon.

Floyd has ridden the play of his stellar guards, Dominic Artis and Omega Harris, during the turnaround. Both players were named to the All-Conference USA team earlier this week and have been catalysts in

the team’s resurgence. While the Miners have battled through injuries, fielded various lineup rotations and struggled with turnovers, the biggest factor in their climb has simply been improved offensive efficiency. During the losing streak, UTEP was shooting 42-percent from the floor and 29-percent from three-point range.

Since then, the Miners have improved to 49-percent and 35-percent, respectively. Couple that with a nearly plus-4 turnover margin per game during the same period and a newfound doggedness on the defensive end of the floor and you have a team that is poised to do what was once unthinkable.

For Floyd, who gruffly accepted responsibility for the team’s poor play after its Dec. 3 loss to Northwestern State, three more wins could provide a catharsis. His arrival in El Paso in 2010 was largely celebrated by fans who appreciated the link to the school’s illustrious past and thought Floyd’s pedigree would bring immediate success to a team fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance. But his previous six seasons have yielded no conference championships and no wins in the second-tier postseason tournaments his teams have qualified for.

A return to the dance would do well to silence the most ardent critics of the highest paid coach in program history. He deserves credit for keeping his team focused through an arduous season. An NCAA tournament berth makes Floyd, whose contract is up in 2018, deserving of even more.

The first step on the road to those possibilities begins today.

Watch it

• What: No. 4-seed UTEP Miners (14-16, 12-6 in Conference USA) vs. No. 5-seed Rice Owls (21-10, 11-7) in quarterfinal round of Conference USA men’s basketball tournament.

• When, where: 1 p.m. MST today, Legacy Arena, Birmingham, Alabama.

• On TV: American Sports Network, Channel 14-KFOX in El Paso.

• Notes: Winner will face the winner of No. 1-seed Middle Tennessee and No. 9-seed UTSA 10:30 a.m. Friday. If UTEP wins its next three games to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament, it would be the first time a team with a 12-game regular season losing streak makes the dance.

Author:  Pablo Villa – Special to the Herald-Post

HP Sports in Depth: Miners Bounce into Birmingham for C-USA Championship

The UTEP men’s basketball team arrived in Birmingham late Monday night to begin preparations for the 2017 Conference USA Championships Presented by metroPCS.  The Miners (14-16) will face either fifth seed Rice or 12th-seed Southern Miss in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday (March 9) at 1 p.m. Mountain time/2 p.m. Central.

The game will be televised on the American Sports Network and can be seen on KFOX Channel 14 in El Paso.

UTEP has won 12 of its last 15 games and is riding high after securing a first-round bye with a 74-67 victory over Charlotte in the regular season finale on Saturday at the Haskins Center.

“It’s an exciting time of the year, not only for us but the other 11 teams that are going to be in the tournament,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “Everybody is hopeful.  In our case, we have given ourselves a path that is a little easier, only having to play three games to get to the NCAA Tournament versus four.  We have no idea who we’re going to play, but it will be a team that is spirited and talented and very capable of beating us, so we’re going to have to play well on Thursday.”

Rice (21-10) will be a heavy favorite against Southern Miss (9-21) on Wednesday.  But the Owls beat the Golden Eagles twice by a combined four points during the regular season, and had to go overtime to secure a 72-71 victory on Feb. 23 in Houston.

UTEP has enjoyed success as a no. 4 seed in conference tournaments.  In five previous appearances (three in the Western Athletic Conference, one in C-USA), the Miners reached the title game three times as a no. 4 seed and won the WAC title in 1990.  In the Miners’ lone appearance as a no. 4 seed in the C-USA Tourney, they bowed out to no. 5 Houston, 89-85 in overtime, in the 2009 quarterfinals.  The Miners have advanced in seven straight C-USA Tournaments and eight of the last nine.

The Miners have five players who have played in a total of 16 C-USA Tournament games – Jake Flaggert (four), Omega Harris (four), Matt Willms (four), Dominic Artis (two) and Trey Touchet (two).  Artis will be playing in his eighth conference tournament game on Thursday.  He led Oregon to the Pac-12 Tournament championship in 2013.

UTEP has enjoyed a lot of success recently against Rice (17-4 in the last 21 meetings), not so much against Southern Miss (4-8 in the last 12 matchups).  But all history goes out the window in postseason play, and the important thing is that the Miners are feeling good about themselves going in.

“The guys are confident and I think we’re healthy.  That certainly helps,” Floyd said.  “We have won 12 of 15 down the stretch and in the losses, we have been right there with a chance to win.  We know that defense has been our calling card and offensive efficiency of late has been good.  Six turnovers in the last ballgame is a nice stat.  We are certainly looking forward to getting out there and competing.”

The Miners will likely go as far as their guards will carry them this time of the year, and Monday was an exciting day as Artis (second team) and Harris (third team) both earned a spot on the All-Conference USA Team.  Artis, the Miners’ lone senior, will be making his last stand this week.

“That’s terrific for him [making second team All-Conference],” Floyd said.  “He certainly deserves at least that.  He has been a huge part of our turnaround.  He has had some incredible numbers with the 400 points, 150 rebounds, 150 assists and 50 steals.  He has worked as hard as any guy that I’ve had away from the floor at trying to make himself better.  I think he has had a really nice final 12 of 13 ballgames for us.  Defensively is where he has made his most improvement.  He is a terrific rebounder as a point guard, probably the best I have had in that area.”

UTEP won at Rice, 79-71, on Feb. 18, and split two games versus Southern Miss during the regular season. The Miners lost in Hattiesburg (73-65) on Jan. 7 before beginning their 12-3 run, which included an 80-50 rout of the Golden Eagles on Feb. 11 in El Paso.

OPENING TIP

–    UTEP is seeded fourth in the 2017 Conference USA Championships Presented by metroPCS.  The Miners (14-16) will face either fifth seed Rice or 12th seed Southern Miss in the tournament quarterfinals on Thursday (March 9) at 1 p.m. Mountain time/2 p.m. Central.
–    The game will be televised on the American Sports Network.  In El Paso, it can be seen on KFOX Channel 14 or over the air CBS 4.2.  Please check local listings for availability on satellite packages.
–    Rice (21-10) and Southern Miss (9-21) will square off in the first round of the tournament on Wednesdayat 1 p.m. Mountain time/2 p.m. Central.  Rice beat Southern Miss twice this season, on Jan. 21 in Hattiesburg (61-58) and on Feb. 23 in Houston (72-71 in overtime).
–    The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to Friday’s semifinals at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time/11:30 a.m. Central.  That game will be shown on CBS Sports Network.  The championship game is on Saturday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time/7:30 p.m. Central (CBS Sports Network).
–    UTEP is 1-1 versus Rice and 1-2 versus Southern Miss in conference tournaments.  The Miners beat the Owls in the 2005 WAC semis (85-77) in Reno, and lost to the Owls in the 2007 C-USA first round (77-74) in Memphis.  UTEP beat the Golden Eagles in the 2006 C-USA quarterfinals in Memphis (66-47), lost to the Golden Eagles in the 2013 C-USA semifinals in Tulsa (85-67), and lost to the Golden Eagles in the 2014 quarterfinals in El Paso (64-56).

C-USA TOURNEY HISTORY

–    UTEP is 12-11 in C-USA Championship games, reaching the semifinals in 2006, 2008, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and the final in 2010 & 2011.
–    The Miners’ all-time conference tournament record is 39-26 (includes a forfeit against Hawaii in the 1996 WAC Tournament).  UTEP captured WAC Tournament crowns in 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990 and 2005.
–    UTEP was seeded third in the C-USA Championship  in  2006,  10th  in  2007,  sixth  in  2008, fourth in 2009, first in 2010, third in 2011, eighth in 2012, third in 2013, fifth in 2014, second in 2015 and sixth in 2016.
–    UTEP was also a no. 4 seed in the 2009 tournament.  The Miners lost to no. 5 Houston, 89-85 in overtime, in the quarterfinals at Memphis.  UTEP is 7-4 all-time as a no. 4 seed in conference tournaments.  UTEP was seeded fourth in the 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1999 WAC Tournament (the Miners won the fourth seed out of the Pacific Division in 1999).  UTEP reached the WAC Tournament final three of those four years (1988, 1990 and 1993) and captured the title in 1990.

COACH FLOYD IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

–    UTEP’s Tim Floyd is 28-19 in 21 conference tournaments with three titles and nine berths in the title game.
–    The titles came in 1990 at New Orleans, 1996 at Iowa State and 2009 at USC.  His teams were conference tournament runner-up in 1989, 1991 and 1993 (New Orleans), 1995 (Iowa State), 2007 (USC) and 2011 (UTEP).
–    UTEP has won its first game in the C-USA Tournament every year under Floyd, who is in his seventh season.  Floyd’s teams (including USC from 2007-09) have advanced in the conference tournament in nine consecutive seasons.  The Miners, meanwhile, have advanced in their last seven C-USA Tournament appearances dating back to 2010, and in eight of the last nine years.

SERIES NOTES

–    UTEP leads the Rice series 21-11 and has won 17 of the last 21 meetings between the schools, including seven in a row.
–    UTEP owns a 15-12 advantage in the Southern Miss series, but the Golden Eagles have won eight of the last 12 matchups and seven of the last 10.

UTEP 79, RICE 71 (FEB. 18)

–    Paul Thomas scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and UTEP led from start to finish in a 79-71 victory in Houston.
–    UTEP jumped out to a 16-6 lead, led by as many as 14 in the second half and met every charge by the Owls, who had their five-game win streak snapped.
–    The Miners crushed Rice in the paint, 24-10, and made 9-of-14 three pointers (64.3 percent).
–    Dominic Artis scored 16 points with six rebounds, seven assists and three steals.  Omega Harris scored 15 points with an efficient shooting night (6-for-10 FGs, 3-for-4 3FGs).  Jake Flaggert was 3-for-3 from long range, all in the second half.  Thomas made 7-of-9 shots and added 11 rebounds.
–    Rice’s three big guns — Marcus Evans, Egor Koulechov and Marcus Jackson — combined to score 31 points on 7-for-26 shooting from the field, 4-for-18 from three.

SOUTHERN MISS 73, UTEP 65 (JAN. 7)

–    Omega Harris and Dominic Artis combined for 49 points, but Southern Miss converted 16 Miner turnovers into 24 points and raced to a 73-65 victory in Hattiesburg.
–    UTEP trailed 39-31 at halftime and got down by 11 early in the second half.  The Miners scored the next seven points to make it 48-44, but couldn’t get closer.
–    Another key stretch came midway through the second half when, after Harris’ free throw made it a six-point game (54-48), Southern Miss’ Robert Thomas nailed a three pointer.
–    Finally, with UTEP trailing by six (69-63) and under two minutes left, Artis and Harris missed a series of shots that could’ve made things interesting had they gone down.
–    Harris scored 26 points, and Artis added 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.  Quinton Campbell scored 24 points with 10 rebounds for Southern Miss, and Cortez Edwards added 17 points.

UTEP 80, SOUTHERN MISS 50 (FEB. 11)

–    Dominic Artis scored six of his 20 points during a 16-0 run early in the second half as UTEP thumped Southern Miss in the Don Haskins Center.
–    The Miners made 12 three pointers led by Artis, who was 6-for-9 from long range.  UTEP finished 12-for-23 from beyond the arc and shot 52.9 percent from the field on a night where Southern Miss’ game plan was to take the Miners’ inside game away.
–    The Miners led 41-31 at the half.  Southern Miss cut it to nine (45-36) with 16:48 to play before UTEP went on the 16-0 run to take command.
–    Artis had 10 assists and six rebounds.  Omega Harris scored 17 points and Jake Flaggert hit three threes, the equalizer with Matt Willms and Paul Thomas combining for 13 points (four in the first half).

UTEP Guards Artis, Harris Garner All-Conference Recognition

UTEP senior guard Dominic Artis was named second team All-Conference USA on Monday and junior guard Omega Harris was appointed third team All-League, based on a vote by head coaches and media.

It marks the first time since 2014 that UTEP has had multiple All-Conference honorees.  Vince Hunter and Julian Washburn were second team selections that year, and John Bohannon was third team.

Artis is trying to become the first player to lead the Miners in rebounding (6.3 rpg), assists (5.9 apg) and steals (1.9 spg).  He is also the first player in UTEP history, and only the fourth in C-USA history, to tally 400 points, 150 rebounds, 150 assists and 50 steals in a season.  He has led the Miners in scoring seven times, rebounds 10 times, assists 24 times and steals 20 times in 2016-17.

Harris is tied with Artis for the team lead in double-figure scoring games (27) and tops the squad with eight 20-point games, most by a Miner in six years.  He is averaging a team-leading 16.8 points.  Harris posted career-highs for points (27), rebounds (10) and steals (five) in the regular season finale against Charlotte on Saturday and also scored his 1,000th career point versus the 49ers.

The first team is composed of LA Tech’s Erik McCree, Marshall’s Jon Elmore, Middle Tennessee’s JaCorey Williams, and Rice’s Marcus Evans and Egor Koulechov.  Joining Artis on the second team are Charlotte’s Jon Davis, Middle Tennessee’s Reggie Upshaw Jr., UAB’s William Lee and WKU’s Justin Johnson.  The third team features Harris, LA Tech’s Jacobi Boykins, Marshall’s Ryan Taylor, Middle Tennesee’s Giddy Potts and Old Dominion’s Ahmad Caver.

The Miners (14-16, 12-6 C-USA), who tied for third place in C-USA, will face either Southern Miss or Rice in the C-USA Championship quarterfinals on Thursday at 1 p.m. MT in Birmingham, Ala.

The game will be televised on the American Sports Network and can be seen in El Paso on KFOX channel 14 or over the air CBS 4.2.

2016-17 ALL-CONFERENCE USA FIRST TEAM

Erik McCree, Louisiana Tech, Sr., F, 6-8. 225, Orlando, Florida

Jon Elmore, Marshall, Jr., G, 6-3, 189, Charleston, West Virginia

JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee, Sr., F, 6-8, 220, Birmingham, Alabama

Marcus Evans, Rice, So., G, 6-2, 195, Chesapeake, Virginia

Egor Koulechov, Rice, R-Jr., G/F, 6-5, 210, Volgograd, Russia

2016-17 ALL-CONFERENCE USA SECOND TEAM

Jon Davis, Charlotte, So., G, 6-3, 195, Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Reggie Upshaw Jr., Middle Tennessee, Sr., G, 6-8, 228, Chattanooga, Tennessee

William Lee, UAB, Jr., F, 6-9, 210, Plantersville, Alabama

Dominic Artis, UTEP, Sr., G, 6-3, 190, San Francisco, California

Justin Johnson, WKU, Jr., F, 6-6, 240, Hazard, Kentucky

2016-17 ALL-CONFERENCE USA THIRD TEAM

Jacobi Boykins, Louisiana Tech, Jr., G, 6-6, 175, St. Petersburg, Florida

Ryan Taylor, Marshall, Sr., F, 6-5, 249, Indianapolis, Indiana

Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee, Jr., G, 6-2, 217, Athens, Alabama

Ahmad Caver, Old Dominion, So., G, 6-2, 170, Atlanta, Georgia

Omega Harris, UTEP, Jr., G, 6-3, 165, Bethany, Oklahoma

Gallery+Story: Miners Edge Charlotte 74-67; Wrap Up C-USA Tourney Bye

Omega Harris established career-highs for points (27), rebounds (10) and steals (five) as UTEP clinched a first-round bye in next week’s Conference USA Championships with a 74-67 win over Charlotte on Saturday in the Haskins Center.

The Miners (14-16, 12-6 C-USA) will have a share of third place in the final C-USA standings after Old Dominion lost at UTSA, 73-55, on Saturday.  UTEP will be seeded fourth in the C-USA Championships and will face the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between the no. 5 and 12 seeds at a time to be announced on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.

The C-USA Championships bracket will be released on Saturday night.

“Really exciting time of the year and I am so pleased for our guys that they have given themselves an easier path at a time when everybody is hopeful in our league,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “I do think Middle Tennessee is in [the NCAA Tournament] and hopefully there will be two bids, and somebody else will secure the championship like us.  I’m as proud of this team as any I have coached, given that they didn’t give in and they have just continued to come to work every day and address who they’re not and try to get better. That’s all you can ask for as a coach.”

The Miners will enter the C-USA Championships having won 12 of their last 15 games following a 2-13 start.

On Saturday, UTEP never trailed in winning a wire-to-wire game for the second time this season.  But the Miners never led by more than 11 points, and it took a late 8-0 run to put it away after Charlotte pulled within three (63-60) with 3:31 remaining.

Harris scored 22 points in the second half, including eight in the last five minutes.  He was 6-for-12 from the field and 9-for-11 from the line in 18 second-half minutes.

Paul Thomas had a double-double (15 points/11 rebounds), Matt Willms scored 11 points and Dominic Artis added 10 points, six rebounds and eight assists on his “Senior Day.”

Floyd said Artis was the catalyst in a 45-point second half after the Miners were only ahead by four (29-25) at halftime and shot 38.7 percent in the opening 20 minutes.

“I thought Dominic really kind of got us going in the second half, just by finding open guys, open looks,” he said.  “I remember him cutting across the lane and kicking it out to Trey [Touchet] for a three, kicking it out to Jake [Flaggert] for a three.  He was selfless on his senior night.”

Artis was also huge against Conference USA’s no. 2 scorer, Jon Davis, who finished with seven points on 2-for-12 shooting.

“He had two field goals and I think one of them was against Trey Touchet late on a drive by,” Floyd said.  “He just really took it on himself, and I think that’s the area where D.A. has improved the most since he got here. You look at his numbers at Oregon and look at his numbers his senior year.  He’s made great, great strides and I really commend him because when we were 2-13, it’s really easy to play for yourself.  But it has been about winning.  He has worked as hard as any young guy that we have ever had.  He beats himself up on mistakes and turnovers.  He beats himself up over losses, which a lot of kids don’t do anymore.  I give him a lot of credit for helping us get this thing turned around.”

Charlotte (13-16, 7-11 C-USA) was led by Adrian White who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half.

“That’s a team that can really score tonight, and they didn’t look like it as much,” Floyd said.  “I thought we did some great things defensively.  These guys understand their identity.  We had no identity early, but I think we do now.”

Now it’s time for postseason play, and the Miners feel good about their chances at Legacy Arena in Birmingham.

“We talked about it in the postgame and I asked them, ‘Is there anybody you feel that you can’t beat?’  And they all said ‘Absolutely not,’” Floyd said.  “They are eager, they’re excited and they have confidence.”

Gallery courtesy Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald-Post

H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Close out Regular Season vs Charlotte; Salute Senior Artis

UTEP (13-16, 11-6 C-USA) faces Charlotte (13-15, 7-10 C-USA) in the regular season finale on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Haskins Center.

Prior to Saturday’s game, the Miners will pay tribute to their lone senior Dominic Artis. The Miners are 1-4 in day games this season, and 30-17 under coach Tim Floyd.

UTEP is playing its third C-USA afternoon game of the season; the Miners lost at UTSA on Jan. 1 (67-55) and at Southern Miss on Jan. 7 (73-65).  This is UTEP’s first afternoon conference game in the Haskins Center since the 2015-16 regular season finale versus UTSA, which the Miners won 81-74.

The Miners can clinch the no. 4 seed and a first round bye in next week’s Conference USA Championships Presented by metroPCS with a victory or a Rice loss at WKU later in the day.

The Miners are 6-2 in C-USA home games with one-point losses to LA Tech (62-61) on Feb. 9 and Old Dominion (62-61) on Thursday.  UTEP is 22-3 in its last 25 league home games dating back to the 2014-15 season.

SERIES HISTORY

–    The Miners are 1-4 against Charlotte.  The lone victory came during the 2014-15 season, 73-68 in the Haskins Center.
–    The 49ers have won two of the first three games played between the teams in El Paso.

THE LAST MEETING

–    Braxton Ogbueze scored seven of his game-high 24 points during a decisive 19-4 run in the second half as Charlotte upended UTEP, 88-78, on Feb. 27, 2016 at Halton Arena.
–    The Miners set a school record for first half field goal percentage (.750) but only led 47-40.  In the second half, they shot 33.3 percent and were outscored 48-31.
–    Charlotte shot 48.4 percent for the game and made 10-of-23 three-pointers and 18-of-20 free throws.
–    The Miners led for most of the first half. They took their largest lead of 10 points (61-51) with 14:58remaining on two free throws by Lee Moore.
–    Charlotte’s Andrien White, who scored 22 points, followed with a three-pointer and a dunk to slice the deficit in half (61-56) before being helped to the locker room with an injury.
–    The 19-4 run continued without him as Ogbueze’s three-pointer with 9:53 to go gave Charlotte its first lead (66-63) since it was 28-27 in the first half.
–    Omega Harris’ layup made it a one-point game (66-65), but the 49ers countered with the next four points.  Moore’s jumper drew UTEP within three (70-67) with about eight minutes left, but Ogbueze nailed a three with 7:10 to play and the Miners couldn’t get closer than four the rest of the night.
–    Joseph Uchebo had 15 points and 10 rebounds on “Senior Day” for Charlotte, and Curran Scott scored 12 off the bench.
–    UTEP placed five players in double figure scoring – Moore (16 points), Earvin Morris (15), Hooper Vint (14), Dominic Artis (13) and Harris (12).

LAST GAME: OLD DOMINION 62 – UTEP 61

–    Zoran Talley made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left, and officials ruled that Matt Willms’ tip-in came after the buzzer sounded as Old Dominion held on for a 62-61 victory at UTEP on Thursday night.
–    The Miners inbounded the ball with 2.1 seconds left.  Omega Harris missed a jumper and Willms tipped it in for the apparent game winner.  House replays showed the ball leaving Willms’ hand with 0.1 seconds on the clock.  But the officials ruled the clock wasn’t started immediately on the inbound, meaning Willms’ shot came after time had run out.
–    The Miners trailed 51-40 with 7:17 remaining, and nearly pulled off their fourth win in C-USA play when trailing by double digits in the second half.
–    UTEP was down 53-45 with 5:54 left, but went on a 16-5 run over the next five minutes and took a three-point lead (61-58) on an NBA-range three-pointer by Harris with 1:03 to go.
–    After Talley made a jumper with 52 seconds remaining to cut it to one, Dominic Artis was fouled with 19.5 seconds left.  He missed both free throws.  Following a jump ball call on the other end that awarded the ball to ODU, Paul Thomas was whistled for a foul with 2.5 seconds on the clock.  Talley, a 60 percent foul shooter, swished both for what turned out to be the decisive points.
–    The Miners struggled mightily offensively in the second half – at one point going  eight and a half minutes without a field goal — before coming alive behind Trey Touchet, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
–    A personal 10-0 run by Touchet carved a 48-38 deficit down to 53-48.  Jake Flaggert got the Miners closer on a three-pointer with 3:45 to play, setting up the wild finish.
–    Harris led the Miners with 14 points.  Touchet made 3-of-5 shots, 2-of-3 three pointers and 4-of-4 free throws.  Artis had 11 points and six assists, and Thomas scored 10 points.
–    Talley scored 17 points for Old Dominion, and B.J. Stith added 12.  The Monarchs outscored UTEP 8-0 in second chance points in the first half in building a 31-27 lead after the Miners led by seven a few times early.

ABOUT CHARLOTTE

–    The 49ers continue to feature one of the most explosive offenses in C-USA in year two under the direction of former NBA star Mark Price.
–    Charlotte is averaging 77 points per game (fourth in C-USA).  The 49ers are shooting 37.2 percent from three-point territory (second in C-USA) and averaging 7.8 made triples per game (third).
–    Charlotte’s dynamic sophomore guard Jon Davis is averaging 19.9 ppg, second in C-USA behind Marshall’s Jon Elmore (20.3 ppg).  Davis is shooting 49.3 percent from the floor, 39.5 percent from beyond the arc and 78.5 percent from the charity stripe.
–    Lending support are junior guard Austin Ajukwa (11.6 ppg), a Clemson transfer, along with sophomore guard Andrien White (10.7 ppg) and senior guard Braxton Ogbueze (10.3 ppg).
–    Charlotte’s struggles have come on the defensive end where they are yielding 80.7 points per game, and on the boards where they have a rebound margin of -7.6 per outing.
–    The 49ers are 3-8 on the road, including 2-6 in league action with a victory at North Texas (82-81) on Jan. 26 and at UTSA (76-75) on Thursday.
–    The 49ers are 3-8 on the road, including 2-6 in league action with a victory at North Texas (82-81) on Jan. 26 and at UTSA (76-75) on Thursday.
–    Davis scored 17 points and made the game-winning three at the buzzer in Thursday’s win over the Roadrunners.  The 49ers trailed 70-62 with under three minutes remaining before going on a 9-0 run.
–    Charlotte made 10-of-18 three pointers, including 6-of-9 in the second half, as Ogbueze was 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.
–    Mark Price was  an  assistant  coach  with  the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks during the 2009-10 season, the same year UTEP’s Tim Floyd was an assistant with the New Orleans Hornets.
–    Price  and  legendary  UTEP  coach Don Haskins are both alumni of Enid (Okla.) High School.

Gallery+Story: Broken-Hearted Buzzer Beater: ODU Edges UTEP 62-61

Zoran Talley made two free throws with 2.5 seconds left, and officials ruled that Matt Willms’ tip-in came after the buzzer sounded as Old Dominion held on for a 62-61 victory at UTEP on Thursday night.

The Monarchs (19-10, 12-5 C-USA) clinched the no. 3 seed in next week’s Conference USA Championship. UTEP (13-16, 11-6 C-USA) will secure the no. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the tournament with a win over Charlotte on Saturday at 1 p.m.  The Miners can also get the no. 4 seed if Rice loses at WKU Saturday night.

The Miners inbounded the ball with 2.1 seconds left.  Omega Harris missed a jumper and Willms tipped it in for the apparent game winner.  House replays showed the ball leaving Willms’ hand with 0.1 seconds on the clock.  But the officials ruled the clock wasn’t started immediately on the inbound, meaning Willms’ shot came after time had run out.

“Really well-played game by two very good teams, two very good defensive clubs,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “Real proud of our guys and our execution.  Omega obviously stepped up and made a couple of really big shots late.  Dominic Artis did as well.  I thought we defended exceedingly well down the stretch and a couple of big plays may or may not have gone our way.”

The Miners trailed 51-40 – their largest deficit of the game – with 7:17 remaining.  They nearly pulled off their fourth win in C-USA play when trailing by double digits in the second half.  But this one wasn’t meant to be.

UTEP was down 53-45 with 5:54 left, but went on a 16-5 run over the next five minutes and took a three-point lead (61-58) on an NBA-range three-pointer by Harris with 1:03 to go.  After Talley made a jumper with 52 seconds remaining to cut it to one, Dominic Artis was fouled with 19.5 seconds left.  He missed both free throws.

Following a jump ball call on the other end that awarded the ball to ODU, Paul Thomas was whistled for a foul with 2.5 seconds on the clock.  Talley, a 60 percent foul shooter, swished both for what turned out to be the decisive points.

“The foul with [2.5] seconds to go, from our vantage point it looked like a kickout leg and shot.  You expect that.  But their guy makes two free throws,” Floyd said.  “I thought we had good execution there on the last inbounds play.  We got it right where we needed to get it.  We got a great look.  These guys wear these clocks on their hips.  I thought they were the ones that were supposed to start the clock.”

Originally it appeared Willms’ shot was good, but the officials took time to review before waving it off.

“A guy marks it good, so it’s got to be irrefutable,” Floyd said.  “And apparently he felt like, based on looking at his little thing on his hip versus the other, that [the clock] may not have started on time from the scorer’s desk.  How would I know without looking at things, but I know it’s got to be irrefutable when they mark the basket good.  It’s where it is.”

The Miners struggled mightily offensively in the second half – at one point going  eight and a half minutes without a field goal — before coming alive behind Trey Touchet, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.

A personal 10-0 run by Touchet carved a 48-38 deficit down to 53-48.  Jake Flaggert got the Miners closer on a three-pointer with 3:45 to play, setting up the wild finish.

Harris led the Miners with 14 points.  Touchet made 3-of-5 shots, 2-of-3 three pointers and 4-of-4 free throws.  Artis had 11 points and six assists, and Thomas scored 10 points.

Talley scored 17 points for Old Dominion, and B.J. Stith added 12.  The Monarchs outscored UTEP 8-0 in second chance points in the first half in building a 31-27 lead after the Miners led by seven a few times early.

“I thought Matt [Willms] was not allowed to do his thing down there,” Floyd said.  “I thought it was a very physical game in the first half.  We started playing through screen and roll in the second half.  I thought that Talley, who was a 60 percent free throw shooter, stepped up and made free throws when they needed it. Omega stepped up with a couple of big-time shots that really helped us.  We got great play from Trey Touchet tonight.  I thought Paul played well also.”

UTEP’s five-game win streak came to an end, while Old Dominion won its fifth straight.

“The last time we lost a game here at home, 62-61, was LA Tech [Feb. 9] and we went on a five-game win streak after that,” Floyd said.  “So we’ll have to regroup and get it behind us.  I thought our guys played with their hearts and souls and I thought our fans were fabulous.  Absolutely great.  And we’ll move on to the next one.

“The three losses that we’ve had during this stretch, we had a chance to win every game.  I couldn’t be prouder of our guys, I couldn’t be prouder of how they have conducted themselves in representing this school.  We’re going to come out and we’re going to play spirited again on Saturday afternoon.”

Saturday is Senior Day and Artis’ final home appearance for the Miners.  Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234, with all seats in the non-Gold sections $8 and $10.

Gallery of photos courtesy Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald-Post

H-P Sports in Depth: Miners Set to Defend the Don, Extend Win Streak vs ODU Thursday

Two of the hottest teams in Conference USA – UTEP and Old Dominion – will lay it all on the line Thursday with the winner securing the no. 3 seed in next week’s Conference USA Tournament.  Tip-off is at 6 p.m.

The Miners (13-15, 11-5 C-USA) have won five straight games and 11 of 13.  Old Dominion (18-10, 11-5 C-USA) has won four in a row (all by at least 14 points) and seven of its last nine.

Discounted ticket prices are in effect for Thursday’s game and Saturday’s regular season finale against Charlotte (1 p.m.).  Tickets are only $8 and $10 in all sections except Gold.  These tickets are ordinarily as much as $26.  The ticket center number is (915) 747-5234.

“It ought to be a great atmosphere in here on Thursday,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We’ve got a very physical team that is playing so well coming here.  They hammered us last year.  They just won by 20 at UAB [on Feb. 11].  It will be a supreme test for our guys.  I’m glad that we’re playing them at a time when we’ve got some confidence, because we are playing well right now.”

Old Dominion leads C-USA in scoring defense (60.6 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.397) and rebound margin (+6.0).  ODU is fourth in the country in scoring defense.  The Monarchs are led by a trio of sophomores – guard Ahmad Caver (13.6 ppg), forward Zoran Talley (11.6 ppg) and guard B.J. Stith (20.6 ppg).  Junior forward Brandan Stith is averaging 10.1 ppg.  Taylor and Brandan Stith rank 1-2 in Conference USA in offensive rebounds, averaging 3.6 and 2.6 respectively.

The game matches two teams that have always been stout defensively, but have only recently found themselves offensively.  UTEP has scored at least 77 points in four of its last five games; during that span the Miners are shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 49.4 percent from three-point range.  Old Dominion is averaging 77 ppg during its four-game win streak and shot 66 percent at UAB.

The game also pits two of the winningest coaches in the country against one another.  Floyd has 463 victories and ODU’s Jeff Jones has 445.

UTEP needs one win to wrap up a C-USA Tournament bye, and if it comes against Old Dominion the Miners would be on the opposite side of the bracket as league champ Middle Tennessee when the event tips off on March 8 in Birmingham.

“You have no way of controlling who you’re going to play, and we know that whoever we play is going to be a team that’s capable of beating us,” Floyd said.  “But you want to go in with as much confidence as you can and the important thing is that you’re getting a bye and not having to play the first day, and only needing to have three wins to get to the NCAA Tournament versus four.  We don’t have great depth.  And as a result, I think playing three games is much more advantageous for us.”

The Miners are 6-1 in conference home games this season, and 22-2 in their last 24.  They’ll try to make it 23-2 on Thursday, and coach Floyd campaigned for a large crowd in the DHC to aid the fight.

“These kids are playing their hearts out,” he said.  “No team in this country has been through more adversity and is playing better than we are at this point of the season.  I think our fans would be proud of these kids and the spirit that they have brought to themselves.  They are a fun group right now, and they have been fun in the locker room after these wins.”

STREAKING AGAIN

–    The Miners have a season-long five-game win streak.  It marks the sixth time that UTEP has enjoyed a win streak of five games or more in Conference USA play since joining the league in 2005.  UTEP’s longest C-USA win streak was 15 games from Jan. 6, 2010 to Jan. 5, 2011.
–    The Miners have won their last five C-USA road games.  UTEP’s longest C-USA road win streak is seven games twice, during the 2009-10 season and over the course of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns.  The Miners also had a five-game C-USA road win streak spanning over the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

OPENING TIP

–    UTEP (13-15, 11-5 C-USA) and Old Dominion (18-10, 11-5 C-USA) will square off on Thursday.  The teams are tied for third place in the Conference USA standings, and the winner will clinch the no. 3 seed in next week’s Conference USA Championship.
–    Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m. MT.  The game will be nationally televised on beIN Sports.
–    The Miners have won five straight C-USA games and 11 of their last 13.  Old Dominion comes to El Paso on a roll as well; the Monarchs have won four in a row (all by at least 14 points) and seven of their last nine.
–    UTEP has its longest win streak of the season and its longest since posting six consecutive victories (all in Conference USA play) from Feb. 4-20, 2016.
–    The Miners are 6-1 in C-USA home games with a one-point loss to LA Tech (62-61) on Feb. 9.  UTEP is 22-2 in its last 24 league home games dating back to the 2014-15 season.
–    Overall UTEP is 78-18 in C-USA home games, including 49-13 under head coach Tim Floyd.

ABOUT OLD DOMINION

–    Old Dominion is 4-3 in C-USA road games with wins over WKU (79-67), Rice (80-72), North Texas (73-67) and UAB (83-62), and losses to Marshall (90-86 in OT), Charlotte (74-72) and Middle Tennessee (64-51).  Overall ODU is 6-4 on the road in 2016-17.
–    The Monarchs continue to hang their hat on defense.  They allow 60.6 points per game (first in C-USA) and opponents are shooting 39.7 percent from the field (first in C-USA) and 34 percent from three-point range.
–    Old Dominion is averaging 64.9 ppg led by a trio of sophomores — guard Ahmad Caver (13.6 ppg), forward Zoran Talley (11.6 ppg) and guard B.J. Stith (10.6 ppg).  Junior forward Brandan Stith is averaging 10.1 ppg.  The Stiths are the sons of ODU assistant coach and former 10-year NBA veteran Bryant Stith.
–    Old Dominion is outrebounding opponents by an average of six per game (also tops in C-USA) led by senior forward Denzell Taylor (7.6 rpg) and Brandan Stith (7.0 rpg).  Taylor and Stith rank 1-2 in offensive rebounds per game in the league, averaging 3.6 and 2.6 respectively.
–    Old Dominion was fourth in the nation in scoring defense, 17th in offensive rebounds per game (13.3), 21st in field goal percentage defense, 27th in rebound margin, 34th in blocks (4.9 bpg) and 39th in turnovers per game (11.5) through the games of Feb. 26.  Taylor was 15th in offensive rebounds per game.
–    During its four-game win streak, Old Dominion is averaging 77 points per game.  The Monarchs shot 66 percent (33-for-50) from the floor and made 9-of-18 three pointers in an 83-62 victory at UAB on Feb. 11, which ended the Blazers’ 23-game C-USA home win streak.

SERIES HISTORY

–    UTEP is 2-1 all-time versus Old Dominion.
–    The Miners won the only previous matchup between the teams in the Haskins Center, 62-47, on Valentine’s Day in 2015.  UTEP held the Monarchs to 30.8 percent shooting, including 26.9 percent in the first half in building a 28-19 lead.

THE LAST MEETING

–    Old Dominion rocketed to an 18-point first-half lead, watched UTEP close the gap to four with 5:51remaining, then outscored the Miners 19-2 down the stretch in a 74-53 victory on Feb. 25, 2016 at the Constant Center.
–    Brandan Stith (16 points/15 rebounds) and Zoran Talley (16/10) both had a double-double for the Monarchs.  The Miners were crushed on the boards, 51-26.
–    Old Dominion outscored UTEP 47-30 in the paint on a night where it didn’t need a big game from Trey Freeman.  C-USA’s leading scorer was held under 20 points for just the second time in 15 league games, finishing with 14 on 6-for-15 shooting.
–    The Monarchs scored the game’s first 11 points and led 17-2 just six minutes in.  The Miners were never in it in the first half, falling behind 31-13 two minutes before halftime.
–    But UTEP had plenty of fight in the second half, and when Terry Winn scored at the 5:51 mark it was 55-51.  That completed a freshmen-driven 7-0 run with four points from Trey Touchet and three from Winn.
–    Old Dominion scored the next four points at the foul line.  Lee Moore made it 59-53 on a layup with 5:13to go. The Monarchs closed the game with a 15-0 run, doing most of their damage after Winn fouled out with 4:50 remaining.
–    Omega Harris was the only Miner in double figures with 11 points, although Dominic Artis, Moore and Winn all scored nine.  Touchet added eight off the bench.
–    The Miners shot 26.9 percent in the first half and 35.1 percent for the game.  They outscored Old Dominion 33-20 to start the second half before faltering late.

LAST GAME: UTEP 90, FIU 76

–    UTEP shot a season-high 67.3 percent from the field, including 72 percent in the second half, in continuing its hot streak with a 90-76 victory at FIU on Saturday.
–    The .673 field goal percentage ranks fifth in school history, and is the team’s best since shooting 69.8 percent versus Midwestern State on Dec. 1, 1986.  It’s the third-best field goal percentage by any Miner team in the modern era (since 1960).  UTEP shot 69.2 percent against Wabash on Dec. 11, 1973.
–    The Miners also made 7-of-11 three-point shots, including 6-of-7 in the second half, and 13-of-15 free throws.
–    FIU led just once, 6-4 three minutes into the game.  Following a closely contested first 13 minutes, the Miners closed the half with a 16-6 run and led 41-30.
–    UTEP extended the lead to 16 (48-32) early in the second half on a three-pointer by Dominic Artis, but FIU got back in it with a 9-0 spurt.  The lead was still seven (58-51) midway through the second half before the Miners used a 7-1 run to push their cushion back to 13.
–    FIU got within nine a couple of times, the last at 67-58 on a layup by Osasumwen Osaghae with 5:41 to go.  But the Miners scored the next seven points to put it away.
–    Matt Willms led the Miners with 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting.  He also had nine rebounds and three blocks.  Dominic Artis scored 21 points with seven assists.  Omega Harris had 19 points, and Paul Thomas added 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.  Trey Touchet scored in double figures for the third time in his college career (12 points) off the bench.  Touchet was 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-2 from three-point territory and 4-for-4 at the line.
–    FIU, which started five seniors in its final home game of the season, was led by Donte McGill who scored 18 points.  The Panthers made 10-of-20 three pointers and scored 21 points off turnovers to stay competitive in stretches.
–    UTEP outscored FIU 48-30 in the paint and dominated the boards, 30-18.

MINERS IN THE NCAA STATS

–    Dominic Artis was 12th in the nation in minutes (36.7 mpg), 19th in assists (5.9 apg) and 30th in steals (2.0 spg) through Feb. 26.  Omega Harris was 19th in minutes (36.4 mpg).

UTEP: Discounted Tickets On Sale for Old Dominion, Charlotte Games

The red-hot UTEP men’s basketball team will play its final two home games of the 2016-17 season this week, and discounted tickets are available now.

Tickets are only $8 and $10 in all sections except Gold.  These tickets are ordinarily as much as $26.

The Miners will host Old Dominion on Thursday at 6 p.m., with the winner earning the no. 3 seed in next week’s Conference USA Championship.  UTEP will host Charlotte on Saturday at 1 p.m. for Dominic Artis’ “Senior Day.”

“This team has enjoyed an amazing in-season turnaround, and we want to do everything we can to give our fans the opportunity to pack the Don Haskins Center for two very important games,” UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull said.

“I’ve always said that teams have to earn crowds,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “I think we have earned it at this point.  This team is playing better than last year’s team at any point right now.  They are playing together, they are playing inspired, and they are playing Miner basketball.  We are playing for third place Thursdaynight against a team that has really, really improved in the last two weeks of the season.  They are scoring at a high clip, a great defensive club and it will be a real tough test for us.”

UTEP has won a season-high five consecutive games and 11 of its last 13.  Old Dominion is on a four-game win streak and is 7-2 in its last nine contests.

For tickets, please call (915) 747-5234.

Miners Maul Panthers 90-76; Roll into El Paso tied for 3rd with Old Dominion

MIAMI, FLA. – UTEP shot a season-high 67.3 percent from the field, including 72 percent in the second half, in continuing its hot streak with a 90-76 victory at FIU on Saturday night.

The Miners (13-15, 11-5 C-USA) are now 11-2 in their last 13 games.  UTEP remained tied for third place in Conference USA with Old Dominion (18-10, 11-5), which will come to the Don Haskins Center to start the final, crucial homestand of the regular season on Thursday (March 2) at 6 p.m.

“I’ve always said that teams have to earn crowds,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “I think we have earned it at this point.  This team is playing better than last year’s team at any point right now.  They are playing together, they are playing inspired, and they are playing Miner basketball.  We are playing for third place Thursday night against a team that has really, really improved in the last two weeks of the season.  They are scoring at a high clip, a great defensive club and it will be a real tough test for us.”

The .673 field goal percentage ranks fifth in school history, and is the team’s best since shooting 69.8 percent versus Midwestern State on Dec. 1, 1986.  It’s the third-best field goal percentage by any Miner team in the modern era (since 1960).  UTEP shot 69.2 percent against Wabash on Dec. 11, 1973.

The Miners also made 7-of-11 three-point shots, including 6-of-7 in the second half, and 13-of-15 free throws.

“I thought that our guard play was the best it has been all season,” Floyd said.  “Dominic Artis and Omega Harris really just fed the post over and over and over again.  Dominic had two shots in the first half and didn’t care.  He got the game established for us, how we wanted to play.  I thought Matt [Willms] and Paul [Thomas] really played off of what our guards did early and had great first halves.  Our guards drove and kicked it for the next pass or shot better than they have all year.”

FIU (6-23, 2-14 C-USA) led just once, 6-4 three minutes into the game.  Following a closely contested first 13 minutes, the Miners closed the half with a 16-6 run and led 41-30.

UTEP extended the lead to 16 (48-32) early in the second half on a three-pointer by Dominic Artis, but FIU got back in it with a 9-0 spurt.  The lead was still seven (58-51) midway through the second half before the Miners used a 7-1 run to push their cushion back to 13.

FIU got within nine a couple of times, the last at 67-58 on a layup by Osasumwen Osaghae with 5:41 to go. But the Miners scored the next seven points to put it away.

Matt Willms led the Miners with 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting.  He also had nine rebounds and three blocks.  Dominic Artis scored 21 points with seven assists.  Omega Harris had 19 points, and Paul Thomas added 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.  Trey Touchet scored in double figures for the third time in his college career (12 points) off the bench.  Touchet was 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-2 from three-point territory and 4-for-4 at the line.

“Trey Touchet really had a great settling effect for us off the bench,” Floyd said.  “He has played with a lot of poise.  I thought he stepped up and made shots in rhythm because of separation off of drives and kicks.  We rebounded it exceptionally well and we took high percentage shots because the ball moved.  I’m just really proud of this four-game stretch.”

FIU, which started five seniors in its final home game of the season, was led by Donte McGill who scored 18 points.  The Panthers made 10-of-20 three pointers and scored 21 points off turnovers to stay competitive in stretches.

UTEP outscored FIU 48-30 in the paint and dominated the boards, 30-18.

The Miners have knocked off North Texas, Rice, Florida Atlantic and FIU on the road the last two weeks.  Now they’ll get a taste of some home cooking as the season winds down, with a lot at stake.  After the Old Dominion game, the Miners will host Charlotte on Saturday (March 4) at 1 p.m. for Dominic Artis’ “Senior Day.”

UTEP finished 5-4 in C-USA road games, marking the sixth time it has fashioned a winning mark away from home since joining the league in 2005.  The Miners’ five-game C-USA road winning streak ties the third-longest in school history.

For tickets to the Old Dominion and Charlotte games, please call (915) 747-5234.

UTEP Stymies Florida Atlantic in Second Half for 60-55 Victory

BOCA RATON, FLA. – UTEP held Florida Atlantic to 22 second-half points, and pulled away late for a 60-55 win over the Owls on Thursday night in Boca Raton.

The Miners (12-15, 10-5 C-USA) outscored the Owls 28-22 in the second half.  They limited FAU to 33.3 percent (9-for-27) shooting, including 1-for-13 from three-point range, over the last 20 minutes to begin their Florida trip on a winning note.

“We did a terrific job defensively in the second half,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We guarded the three-point line and took away a lot of their key guys on the defensive end of the court.  We had a big respect for Gerdarius Troutman, and he had two field goals.  Omega [Harris] did a nice job there.  Justin Massey had a field goal.  We held [Nick] Rutherford to a field goal.  Our guards are guarding so well.”

Troutman, who scored 22 points and made six threes at UTEP on Jan. 14, had one field goal in each half and was 2-for-5 from the field, 0-for-3 from distance.  Massey, averaging 9.1 ppg, was 1-for-4 from the floor and 1-for-3 from beyond the arc.  Adonis Filer scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the second half for the Owls (9-17, 5-10 C-USA).

UTEP led by as many as six points in the first half, but the Owls rallied to take a 33-32 lead into the locker room.  After the teams traded baskets to open the second stanza, the Miners went on an 8-2 run and built a 42-37 lead on a jumper by Jones with 12:56 remaining.  UTEP wouldn’t trail again, although there were some anxious moments when the Owls cut a seven-point deficit down to three (58-55) on two free throws by Filer with 56 seconds left.

Troutman missed a three that could’ve tied it with 19 seconds left and, following a wild scramble for the loose ball, Harris missed a breakaway dunk.  But Trey Touchet secured the key offensive rebound with 11 seconds remaining, and Jake Flaggert made two big free throws with six seconds left to push the lead back to five and all but end it.

The Miners outrebounded the Owls 32-30 as Dominic Artis (nine rebounds) and Harris (eight) combined for 17 boards.  Artis scored seven of his team-high 12 points in the last five minutes, including a crucial three-pointer with 3:51 left that gave UTEP its biggest lead (56-49).  He also provided a pivotal jumper with 1:11 to go on a strong move into the lane that put the Miners in front 58-53.

Harris scored 11 points, Matt Willms 10 and Kelvin Jones added a career-high 10 with two steals in 15 minutes off the bench.  His minutes were huge as the reigning Conference USA Player of the Week, Paul Thomas, was limited to 16 minutes due to foul trouble.  Jones made 5-of-7 shots and the UTEP bench was a combined 8-for-10 from the floor.

“We got a terrific performance out of Dominic Artis tonight.  He made some big, big shots for us down the stretch,” Floyd said.  “We got some terrific minutes out of Kelvin Jones off the bench.  He showed signs of developing into a very, very nice player tonight.  We had a couple of guys struggling from the floor who normally don’t, like Omega.  [Kelvin] kind of helped us out.  I thought as big as anything, Jake Flaggert took three big-time charges in the second half.  In any other game, those would’ve been baskets but he just keeps throwing his body out there in front of guys and takes away three possessions for the other team and gives us three more possessions.  Those things are underrated.”

The Miners outrebounded Florida Atlantic 20-15 in the second half with Artis and Harris combining for 11 rebounds.

“Dominic continues to be the best rebounding guard that I have coached,” Floyd said.  “He only had one turnover, 12 points, nine boards, and Omega had eight boards.  Even though he struggled offensively, he helped us defensively and on the glass.”

The Miners, still tied for third place in the league with Old Dominion, will wrap up their Sunshine State tour at FIU on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT.

H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Prepares for Make-or-Break Road Trip To Florida

UTEP’s charge to a 9-2 mark over the last 11 games started with a pair of overtime victories over FIU and Florida Atlantic in the Don Haskins Center in mid-January.  Now, with the regular season winding down, the Miners will meet the Panthers and the Owls on the road as they continue to chase a top-four seed in the rapidly approaching Conference USA Championships.

UTEP (11-15, 9-5 C-USA) will face Florida Atlantic (9-16, 5-9 C-USA) on Thursday in Boca Raton, and FIU on Saturday in Miami.  Both games will tip at 5 p.m. MT.

The Miners were 2-10 when league play began on Jan. 1.  UTEP’s .167 non-conference win percentage was the second-worst of any team currently above .500 in a conference.  Mount St. Mary’s was 2-11 (.154) and is currently 13-3 in the Northeast Conference.

“It’s a good story for us certainly just looking internally, based on the emotions and how we felt and what we’d gone through early in the season,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We got a guy healthy in Matt Willms.  We got a player get much better in Paul Thomas.  As a result of Matt’s getting better, Trey Touchet and Jake Flaggert are now getting shots in rhythm, Dominic [Artis] and Omega [Harris] are playing better.  It’s a nice story right now.

“I think our players should be commended for taking accountability for the inadequacies that we had earlier in the season, and taking self-blame and putting it on themselves and trying to get better.”

The Miners are tied for third place in C-USA with Old Dominion.  The Monarchs are coming to the Don Haskins Center a week from Thursday, making this week’s games very important.

Florida Atlantic is 4-3 at home in C-USA action but 1-6 at FAU Arena, although the Owls have dropped some heartbreakers there to UAB (80-78), Middle Tennessee (86-57), North Texas (70-64) and Rice (81-75 in overtime).

Junior guard Gerdarius Troutman, who scored 22 points with six three-pointers at UTEP on Jan. 14, was inserted into the Owls’ starting lineup for the last seven games.  He scored 25 points at Southern Miss on Saturday, including seven threes.

Florida Atlantic is fifth in C-USA in three-pointers per game (7.3) and has committed the fewest turnovers in the league (291).

“Florida Atlantic has won four of its last seven [games] with all four wins on the road, at Old Dominion and at Charlotte and a really decisive win at Southern Miss most recently,” Floyd said.  “One of their losses in that stretch was to Rice in overtime.  This is like an entirely different team.  I know we’re different, but they’re different as well.”

The Miners may be playing their best basketball of the season, but there is still room for growth.

“Do we want to get better?  Yeah, and that’s the encouraging thing about what we’re watching right now,” Floyd said.  “These kids are really liking how they feel and they’re wanting to work and they’re trying to get better, and they’re looking at what we didn’t do well in the last game and they’re not unrealistic right now. That’s a good place to be.”

With their next victory, the Miners will have double-digit conference wins for the fifth consecutive season and the eighth time in nine years.  But the ultimate goal is to continue to improve as much as possible between now and March 8, when postseason play begins.

“We know that we’re approaching the conference tournament and as long as we focus on each other and trying to make each other better every day, we’re going to be OK regardless of if we lose a game or two and have a bump in the road,” Floyd said.

OPENING TIP

–    UTEP (9-15, 9-5 C-USA) makes a trek to the Sunshine State for a third consecutive year this week.  The Miners will take on Florida Atlantic Thursday and FIU Saturday.
–    Up first is a matchup with Florida Atlantic (9-16, 5-9 C-USA) in Boca Raton.  Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. MT.
–    The Miners swept two games in Florida in each of the last two years.  In 2015, UTEP prevailed 63-56 at Florida Atlantic and 67-64 at FIU.  Last year the Miners faced FIU first and beat the Panthers 84-74 before knocking off the Owls 89-82.
–    UTEP is playing its last two road games of the regular season.  The Miners are 3-6 on the road but have won three straight C-USA away games for the first time since January of 2015.  UTEP’s last four-game C-USA road win streak came during the 2013-14 season, when it was victorious in its first five league contests outside of El Paso.
–    The Miners are tied for third place in the league standings with Old Dominion (16-10, 9-5 C-USA).  UTEP will host the Monarchs on March 2.  The top four teams in C-USA will earn a bye to the league tournament March 8-11 in Birmingham.
–    UTEP has matched its longest winning streak of the season at three games.  The Miners are seeking four consecutive victories for the first time since reeling off six wins in a row in February of 2016.
–    With its next victory, UTEP will secure double-digit C-USA wins for the fifth consecutive season and for the eighth time in nine years.

ABOUT FLORIDA ATLANTIC

–    The Owls are 4-3 on the road in C-USA play, but only 1-6 at FAU Arena where they have dropped four straight to UAB (80-78), Middle Tennessee (86-57), North Texas (70-64) and Rice (81-75 in OT).
–    Florida Atlantic is coming off a 94-82 victory at Southern Miss on Saturday.  Junior guard Gerdarius Troutman, inserted into the starting lineup for the last seven games, poured in 25 points.  He shot 9-for-12 from the field and 7-for-9 from three-point range.
–    Troutman is second on the team in scoring for the season (10.1 ppg) but is averaging a team-leading 12.1 ppg in C-USA play.  He is shooting 46.7 percent from three-point range and 77.3 percent from the line in conference action.  Troutman is fourth in league in three-point percentage for all games (.444), and second for conference games only.  He rates 17th nationally in three-point percentage.
–    Troutman is averaging 2.7 made threes per game, second in C-USA.  His seven makes at Southern Miss tied for the most by a league player this season.
–    Senior guard Adonis Filer is averaging 10.1 ppg and sophomore guard Justin Massey is averaging 9.1 ppg.  The Owls’ top inside player is junior center Ronald Delph (8.4 ppg/7.0 rpg/1.5 bpg), who started his college career by redshirting at Auburn (2013-14) under former Miner head coach Tony Barbee.
–    The Owls are fifth in C-USA in three-pointers made per game (7.3).
–    Florida Atlantic has committed the fewest turnovers in C-USA (291) and is averaging 11.6 per game, second in the league behind Middle Tennessee (10.6).

SERIES HISTORY

–    UTEP leads the series 4-1.
–    The Miners are 2-0 versus the Owls in Boca Raton with victories during the 2014-15 (63-56) and 2015-16 (89-82) seasons.

THE LAST MEETING

–    Omega Harris scored 18 points, and hit the jumper that gave the Miners the lead for good to start overtime in an eventual 66-65 victory over Florida Atlantic on Jan. 14 in the Haskins Center.
–    The Miners held FAU to 36.2 percent shooting, including 21.4 percent (6-for-28) from three-point range.  Gerdarius Troutman pretty much single-handedly kept the Owls in the game, scoring 22 points and making all six of his team’s three pointers.  He was 6-for-9 from beyond the arc, the rest of the squad was 0-for-19.
–    UTEP led throughout the first half and remained in front until 3:57 remaining in regulation, when Troutman hit two free throws for a 50-49 FAU lead.  It was the Owls’ first advantage since 4-2 early on.
–    Willms broke a 52-52 tie on a free throw with 1:22 remaining, and Dominic Artis’ layup pushed the Miner lead to three (55-52) with 13 seconds left.  Troutman hit his fifth three of the game with five seconds on the clock to sent it to overtime.
–    The Miners scored the first four points in overtime, built an eight-point lead (66-58) with 1:15 to play, then withstood a furious rally by the Owls.  After Troutman cut it to one (66-65) on his final triple of the evening with three seconds left, the ball was inbounded to Trey Touchet who threw it into the frontcourt, enabling time to run out.
–    Willms scored 16 points, Paul Thomas had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Artis added 11 points.
–    After falling behind 4-2 early, the Miners scored eight straight points to take a 10-4 lead on a layup by Harris with 14:34 remaining in the half.  Florida Atlantic knotted the score at 11, but UTEP answered with a 9-0 run to power ahead 20-11 on a layup by Touchet with 8:43 to play.
–    Florida Atlantic ended the half with an 8-2 run to trim a 24-15 deficit down to 26-23. Troutman made two of his three first-half three-pointers over the final 3:29 of the period.

LAST GAME: UTEP 79, RICE 71

–    Paul Thomas scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and UTEP led from start to finish for the first time this season in a 79-71 victory at Rice on Feb. 18.
–    UTEP jumped out to a 16-6 lead, led by as many as 14 in the second half and met every charge by the Owls, who had their five-game win streak snapped.
–    The Owls were averaging 82.1 points and scored 71.  They were shooting 39.9 percent from three-point range and finished 8-for-29 (.276) from beyond the arc.  They were shooting 47.5 percent from the field and were harassed into a 34.5 percent (20-for-58) night.
–    It was a total team effort as the Miners battled foul trouble all night.  Matt Willms was limited to 23 minutes before fouling out.  Jake Flaggert and Thomas ended the game with four fouls.
–    The Miners crushed Rice in the paint, 24-10.  In a role reversal, they shot 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from three-point land.  They enjoyed a slim 35-33 advantage on the boards and turned it over 14 times, but only five times in the second half.
–    Dominic Artis scored 16 points with six rebounds, seven assists and three steals.  Omega Harris scored 15 points with an efficient shooting night (6-for-10 FGs, 3-for-4 3FGs).  Flaggert was 3-for-3 from long range, all in the second half.  Thomas made 7-of-9 shots and added 11 rebounds for his fifth career double-double.
–    Rice’s three big guns – Marcus Evans, Egor Koulechov and Marcus Jackson – combined to score 31 points on 7-for-26 shooting from the field, 4-for-18 from three.
–    The Miners saw a 10-point lead shrink to five (29-24) at halftime.  They started the second half strong and went up by 14 (46-32) on a three-pointer by Flaggert with 14:23 to go.  Jackson pulled the Owls within seven (66-59) on a three-pointer with 4:13 remaining.  The Miners scored the next four points to put the Owls on life support.

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