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Monday , November 12 2018
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Tag Archives: Matt Willms

UTEP’s Matt Willms Granted Sixth Year of Eligiblity by NCAA

UTEP Athletics officials have been notified by the NCAA that 7-1 center Matt Willms has been granted a sixth year of eligibility and will return for the 2017-18 season.

“We think this is a big deal,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “It gives Matt his first offseason in five years to actually be able to work out, lift and improve his game. This is when players get better. He has enormous potential and getting him back is huge, both for him and for us. I’d like to thank the NCAA for their thorough review of his case and for making the right decision.”

Willms has played only three full seasons (2013-14, 2014-15, 2016-17) in a career wracked by injuries. He has undergone two major surgeries, one for a torn labrum in his shoulder and another for a fracture of the nevicular bone in his foot.

Last year, coming off the foot surgery, Willms enjoyed his finest season as a Miner, averaging 11.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while leading Conference USA in field goal percentage (.591). He scored in double figures 18 times and was named Conference USA Player of the Week on Jan. 30 after averaging 26.0 points and making 24-of-31 shots (77.4 percent) on the Miners’ road trip to WKU and Marshall.

Willms will enter his senior year with career totals of 693 points, 416 rebounds and 98 blocked shots with a .571 (274-for-480) field goal percentage. He has played in 95 games and ranks ninth in school history in blocks.

NCAA rules permit players five years to play four. Willms redshirted in 2012-13, meaning he has been on campus for five years already. UTEP officials had to submit paperwork to the NCAA detailing Willms’ situation and requesting the sixth year, but nothing was a given.

“When I first found out that I may not get my eligibility back next year, it started going through my head. What if I can’t play? Where do I go from here? Do I go overseas? Would I even have an option there,” Willms said. “Once the process started, they said it’s difficult [to get the sixth year] and it put more doubt in my mind. I got a call from coach today telling me that I’ve been accepted. The first thing I thought about is the amount of talent we have next year, and being a senior and being able to lead the team. It means a lot to me to come back and wear the Miner jersey for one last season.”

Willms is already mapping out his offseason goals.

“One thing that I want to do is put on at least 15 pounds,” he said. “Another thing is to work on my foot speed, get my foot speed back, work a little more on my post moves, moves I can counter and go from there. Those are my goals, just to try to get better and once the new guys come in, give them some pointers on what to work on and what to expect.”

UTEP’s Willms Named C-USA Player of the Week

UTEP junior center Matt Willms picked up his first Conference USA Player of the Week honor on Monday after leading the Miners in a couple of road games last week.

Willms averaged 26.0 points for the week and made 24-of-31 shots (77.4 percent).  First, he scored a career-high 27 points in the Miners’ 65-62 loss at WKU on Thursday.  Willms made 13-of-16 shots (81.3 percent) in that contest.  He established career-highs for field goals made (13), field goals attempted (16) and minutes (35) in the game while adding four rebounds, a block and two steals.

The 27 points were the most by a UTEP big man since John Tofi scored 30 at Southern Miss on Feb. 11, 2006.  It also marked the most points by a UTEP player this season.  Willms followed that up with a 25-point, seven-rebound performance as UTEP handed Marshall its first home loss of the season, 91-68, on Saturday.  He shot 11-for-15 (.733) from the field and added three assists and a steal over 29 minutes.

It marks the second time Willms has been recognized by C-USA.  He was named the league’s Freshman of the Week on Nov. 11, 2013.

The Miners, who have won four of their last five games, will host league powers UAB (Thursday, 8 p.m.) and Middle Tennessee (Saturday, 6 p.m.) this week.  Thursday is “Jeep Jackson Tribute Night,” and fans are asked to wear white.

The first 1,000 fans will receive a Jeep Jackson t-shirt, and the first 5,000 will receive a commemorative Jeep Jackson trading card.

Miners Round Up Herd in Huntington 91-68

HUNTINGTON, W. VA. – Matt Willms scored 25 points and Dominic Artis added 24 points and 11 rebounds, as UTEP handed Marshall its first loss at home this season, 91-68, on Saturday night at the Cam Henderson Center.

The Miners (6-16, 4-4 C-USA) got a much-needed split of their road trip while notching their first road victory of the season.

Marshall (13-9, 6-3 C-USA), which entered the game tied for second place in C-USA, fell to 11-1 at home with only its third loss in the last 24 games in Huntington.

The Herd was held 20 points below its season average.  Marshall, averaging a C-USA best 10.6 three-pointers per game, shot 3-for-25 from beyond the arc.  The three triples were a season low for the Herd.

“I just thought we caught them on a night, they probably looked at our record and thought we stunk, and for the most part we have this year,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “I thought when they got it close and missed a couple of free throws it really hurt them.  They had some really nice open looks that they couldn’t get down, including a missed layup, shots that Marshall normally makes.”

But give the Miners credit, they trailed only once at 2-0 and, after seeing a 15-point lead dwindle to three early in the second half, they went on a 12-0 run and were in command the rest of the way.

Willms had some road trip.  After scoring 27 points at WKU on Thursday, he made 11-of-15 shots against the Herd while adding seven rebounds for the Miners, who absolutely throttled Marshall on the glass (45-29).  Willms averaged 26.0 ppg for the week, made 24-of-31 shots in the two games and will be a strong contender for Conference USA Player of the Week on Monday.

Artis was 11-for-16 from the floor while collecting 11 rebounds.  Omega Harris scored 13 points and Paul Thomas 11 for UTEP, which held on despite being forced to mix and match lineups in the second half with Thomas, Willms and Kelvin Jones all in foul trouble.

Jones was key off the bench with five points, five rebounds and two blocks in 13 minutes, and Deon Barrett came alive at the right time, scoring seven points on perfect shooting (2-for-2 FGs, 1-for-1 3FGs, 2-for-2 FTs) in 21 minutes.

“We got a really nice floor game out of our two guards tonight, Artis and Harris,” Floyd said.  “Best floor game they have had this year.  They did a nice job.  Kelvin Jones gave us some great minutes when Paul Thomas fouled out.  We went with the two bigs during that stretch and I thought he really helped us on the defensive boards.  He didn’t hurt us defensively.  We worried about chasing them with those two big guys, and they were able to stay between them and the basket for the most part.  He made a couple of nice feeds inside to Matt.”

Willms has gotten his conditioning in order and established himself as a dominant force in C-USA this week.

“Matt is emerging as a player.  This kid has got as much talent as any big guy in the country,” Floyd said.  “He has just never been able to play.  He hasn’t had an offseason for four years with knee [injury], and then he had a Joel Embiid foot injury.  He has never been able to lift, never been able to work out in the summer.  He didn’t practice for the first two months of the year and is kind-of rounding into shape.  I have been telling people he’s a great talent and he had a great weekend.  He is developing into a fine young player.”

The Miners got off to a great start, jumping out to leads of 8-2, 16-6 and 22-8.  Marshall trimmed it down to 10 (45-35) at halftime.

The Herd outscored UTEP 14-7 over the first five and a half minutes of the second half and cut the deficit to three (52-49) on a layup by Terrence Thompson, who scored 25 points with 10 rebounds.

UTEP’s ensuing 12-0 run featured six points from Artis, who scored 14 in the second half.

After Marshall pulled within nine (64-55) with 8:35 to go, the Miners scored five in a row to put it away.

UTEP’s 91 points were a season high.  The Miners shot 60.6 percent in the first half, 57.8 percent for the game, and scored a whopping 60 points in the paint.

Marshall’s starting guard tandem of Stevie Browning, Jon Elmore and Austin Loop, averaging 48 points between them, were held to 21 combined on 4-for-24 shooting from the field and 2-for-17 from three.

“I thought that we closed pretty hard [on the three-point shooters],” Floyd said.  “We just really respect their range.  They put 108 [points] on us last year.  It seemed like 200.  And we just really respect their range and I thought we did a pretty good job of closing and getting underneath them to where those shots, they didn’t have the same rhythm maybe that they’d had in the past, although a lot of them were open.  They had some open looks.  They just had one of those nights from the floor I think.”

The Miners will be home for four straight games, starting on Thursday when they host defending C-USA regular season champion UAB.  Tip-off is at 8 p.m. on “Jeep Jackson Tribute Night.”  Fans are encouraged to wear white.  UTEP will host last year’s C-USA Tournament champion and NCAA Tournament participant Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 6.