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Story in Many Pics+Video: UTEP Introduces New Men’s Basketball Coach Rodney Terry

Rodney Terry, who was appointed the 19th head coach in UTEP men’s basketball history on Monday, was introduced to the public and press on Wednesday

Our very own Andres Acosta was there and brings you his view of Terry’s news conference in this Story in Many Pics + Video.  Coach Terry’s comments are after the

Rodney Terry Opening Remarks

“Good afternoon.  I’m so thankful to have you all here today.  I’d like to say thank you to God for this opportunity.  Without him, I wouldn’t be here with my strong faith, belief and religious values.  I’d like to thank my family – my mother, my father, who is a 30-year head coach in high school basketball in the state of Texas as well.  I’d like to thank the Fresno State players and administration for an incredible seven years — President Castro, our AD Steve Robertello, our athletic department and all my players.  We’ve been up to something special there, and I’d like to personally thank each and every player for their dedication to our program.  I love them like my own sons. 


“I want to extend a special thanks to my mentors.  I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t have a lot of great people that I got a chance to work with and be blessed to be in their presence over the course of my career.  Harry Miller gave me my first opportunity in college coaching at Baylor University.  He gave me a lot of responsibilities, was a tremendous man of integrity, and was also a man who helped me understand what it takes to run a successful program.  Jerry Wainwright, who is on my current staff right now, I got a chance to work with Jerry out at UNC Wilmington.  Jerry taught me just about everything that I know in terms of recruiting.  Again, another man with a lot of integrity.  We got a chance to build a successful program there.  And I got a chance to later add him on my staff at Fresno, and he has been an unbelievable force there.  Rick Barnes, who I talk to on a regular basis as well.  He has had a chance to bring new energy to the Tennessee program.  He was coach of the year in the SEC.  But he’s an even better person than a coach, a guy who taught me a great amount about how you run a program, run it with integrity, do it the right way, how you communicate with your players and how you treat people as well.  All great mentors for me, and I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for those guys.


“I want to also thank Dr. Natalicio and Jim Senter for their tremendous leadership during this process.  This university is truly in great hands with their vision, and the reason why I chose to be here today.  They are unbelievable ambassadors for this university. UTEP is a special place. It has great tradition, great history and an incredibly passionate fanbase.  It’s the only school in the state of Texas with a national championship.  Let’s give it up!  I’m proud of that.  And I’m sure we’ll be even more proud of that at the end of March as well.  But I want to build on that.  I want to build on the tradition, I want to build on the history.  I want to have a connection with this campus.  I want to be connected to the faculty, the staff, the students and the alumni.  I want to be accessible, I want to be visible.  I obviously want to have you guys come and support us at a very high level.  But I also want you to have a feel for myself, our players and our program.  Our success is going to be predicated on you guys being very supportive of us.  We’re going to be visible, we’re going to be out and hopefully gaining your trust because that’s what we’ll be working on every single day, to build a program that you’re going to be proud of on a daily basis. 


“I’d also like to recognize the tremendous coaches here, starting with the legend Don Haskins.  I had a chance as a kid to watch his teams play with unbelievable tenacity on defense, just the way his teams competed at a very high level.  I have so much respect for him and what he was able to do here and I got to see it first-hand myself.  I watched games on TV in the Haskins Center, and just a phenomenal coach.  Billy Gillispie, who I got a chance to work with at Baylor University for a couple of years and also helped me grow as a young coach in the business.  Every day, I remember going into the office and Billy getting on me saying ‘Rodney, we’re 100 yards behind everybody right now.  You’ve got to roll your sleeves up.  We’ve got to work every day man.’  He really instilled in me that this is a business and one that you can’t take lightly and every single day that you walk in, you’ve got to think like a head coach and act like a head coach.  Billy Gillispie has an unbelievable work ethic.  His teams always play extremely hard.  You guys are familiar with that, and he had a great career here as well.  Doc Sadler, he had some tough, hard-nosed teams.  He’s a really good coach as well.  Tony Barbee really built a program here and had a great amount of success and got to go to the NCAA Tournament.  And I’d be remiss to not recognize the yeoman’s work that homegrown Tim Floyd did here.  He worked extremely hard, he’s a coach I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and did special things here as well.  But a lot of great coaches that I’m following in the footsteps of.


“We played here four years ago in the CBI Tournament, and for our program at that time, it was a huge deal.  We were really trying to turn the corner, we were trying to get our guys to buy into postseason play.  So it was critical for us.  And we were excited about the opportunity.  But I came out early before the game because I wanted to look around and take it all in.  In the midst of being out there early and seeing the passionate fans – you’ve got 5,000 fans in the building already – and the passion in the building, the energy and excitement in the building, it just made you look around and say ‘Wow.  This is a place that is passionate and cares about basketball and they’re here to support their team.’  And this is truly a dream for me to be here today.  I have really admired this place from afar in terms of the passion.  It’s a basketball community where basketball really means something.  And there’s a lot of passion for you to be successful here.


“I’m very excited about the opportunity to get a chance to work with the current team right now.  It’s a very difficult time for them right now, a time of uncertainty.  I have had the chance to reach out to many of those guys on the team right now and let them know that I’m excited about getting to know them, but more importantly them getting the chance to know me as well. 


“I’d like to backtrack a little bit.  As I’ve said, I’ve admired this place from afar.  Glory Road the movie, I’ve seen it countless times.  I can’t count the number of times I have watched that movie.  I mentioned it to our team a few weeks ago.  There are a lot of sleepless nights that you have as a coach, as your season is going along.  I had one night about four in the morning where I couldn’t sleep, I had a thousand things running through my mind.  And I still have a DVD player, and in that DVD player was Glory Road.  So I turned it on and I was watching it and it’s always so inspirational to me.  I was a huge fan of coach Haskins and the way he coached and the way his teams played.  To just watch that movie and get a chance to see those guys, I can watch it over and over.  Bobby Joe Hill, Willie Cager, David Lattin, Nevil Shed, 1966 was a special year and to win a national championship at that level at that time, still to this day is unbelievable.  It’s an unbelievable feat, not only for this community to be proud of but the entire country to be proud of, what those guys did and what that team did and the way it brought everyone together.  It was so inspirational and I hope at some point with my guys to take an appreciation for that, really try to buy into that type of team and hopefully have those kind of results at some point.  I’m not saying we’re going to win a national championship because everything has to line up, but I’d love to be able to win a national championship here and do that as well.


“We’re going to try to hang our hats on two things every night.  We’re going to hang our hats on our effort, our preparation, we’re going to try to be the hardest playing team on defense every night that we take the floor.  I’d like to think that when you walk out of the Haskins Center, that you’re going to walk out of there whether we win, lose or draw, you walk out of there and say ‘Man, you know what, that team gave it all they had.  They left it all on the floor.  And they played with a passion for themselves, for their university, and for this community.’  And we did it at a very high level. 


“I always said to my guys on a regular basis, and I challenge them and hold them accountable, to being a cut above.  Being a cut above in the classroom.  Being a cut above on the court and off the court, because I firmly believe if you have slippage off the court, it’s really hard for you to be good on the court and have a high level of success doing that.  So I hold my guys to a very high standard in terms of the academic piece.  We’re going to go into a lot of homes and we’re going to do a great job of selling our brand and our institution here.  I’m never going to promise a parent that I’m going to put a kid in the NBA.  There’s not one coach in America that can put a kid in the NBA.  But I will promise them that I’m going to do my part, that they’re going to get an education that they’re going to feel proud about and they’re going to walk away with a degree.  And in the process, they’re going to hopefully have developed as young men that are going to be able to go back to their communities and be great husbands, great fathers, great providers, and be givers back in their communities.  But we’re going to have a very high standard and that’s something as I left Fresno State that I was very proud of.  We got a chance to build a very special program there over seven years.  But I was more proud of my guys getting their degrees and having a chance to better their lives and be unbelievable providers moving forward in the future.


“I’ll talk a little bit about some important things that are going to be the building blocks of trying to be successful here and bring back a high level of basketball to this great institution, that being recruiting.  Recruiting is the life blood of every program.  Every successful program has got to have players.  You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to have guys.  I always go by the old adage that we try to recruit really good kids that really want to be good players.  But they’ve got to be good kids, good character so they can buy into the things that we’re trying to ask them to do at a very high level.  So we’re going to try to recruit the most talented guy that we can who’s going to represent this university and this community the right way.  We’re going to have an aggressive mindset in the recruiting aspect.  We’re going to recruit Texas very aggressively.  We always like to start inside and work our way out nationally.  When you’re talking about trying to win a league, it’s important that you try to get guys that can play in the Big 12, guys that can play in conferences above you.  In order for you to win that league you’ve got to have high-level players.  And we’re going to try to do a great job, my staff and I, identifying really good character guys that can be really good players for us and to help take our program to another level here.


“From a basketball standpoint, we’re going to try to put a very exciting, fast-playing team on the floor.  I know a lot of times people say ‘What’s your style of play, how are you going to play?’  In a perfect world, you have an idea of the way you want to play.  But a lot of times you’ve got to come in and assess your talent level of what you have right now and what gives you the best chance to win right now.  In a perfect world, we want to play extremely fast.  We want to score early in transition.  If we don’t have that, we want to be able to have a team that moves the ball well, shares the ball well but more importantly, plays a very exciting brand.  We like to get up the floor defensively, some form of pressure up the floor, and then in the halfcourt we’re going to try to sit down and really guard and be a hard-nosed, physical playing defensive team.  We know every night we’re going to be able to hang our hat on defense.  We can’t control how well we shoot the ball or whether we’re going to shoot the ball extremely well on a given night.  We’d like to think we’re going to make more than we miss, because we’re going to put a lot of time into practicing shooting the basketball.  But every night, we’re going to hang our hat on defense.  And we know at the end of the day if we can have that as a form of our identity, we’ll have a chance to win championships. 


“So every night you come into the Haskins Center, you’re going to see a team that’s going to be out there leaving it all on the floor, diving for loose balls, taking charges, doing whatever it takes defensively to put ourselves in position to win the ballgame.  Offensively we’re going to get out there and find a way, whether we need to play inside out, whether we need to attack the basket a little bit more and try to get to the foul line.  We’re going to play an aggressive style of basketball and again, one that hopefully you’ll be excited about coming back to see and enjoy watching on a regular basis. 


“But I’m excited about this opportunity, I’ve been blessed enough to be able to be in a similar situation at Fresno State where we went in and we had to build a program from ground zero.  We didn’t take any shortcuts, we tried to do it the right way with a lot of integrity.  As I alluded to earlier, we tried to go out and attract the best talented guys that were really good character kids that we knew could come in and represent the program the right way.  And they did that for us.  They bought in to what we were trying to do.  And we had to nurture that culture every single day.  It’s no different from what we’re planning to do here.  I’m going to put a great staff together that’s going to come in and help us build this program step by step.  I’d like to think that it can happen overnight.  We’re going to try to do it as quick as we can.  But we’re not going to take any shortcuts.  We’re going to do it where we can have sustained success.  I’d like to think that I left Fresno State much better than the way I found it.  For the last four years, we’ve had a chance to compete for conference championships.  We had teams that every year I felt like could win our league.  But we built it the right way, we built it where every year we felt that we could be a contender for the conference championship.  And that’s what we plan on doing here.  We plan on doing it the right way, with a lot of integrity, with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and more importantly a lot of pride in who we are and who we’re representing.  We want to make you guys proud.  We want to make you come out and want to be supportive.  Again, we welcome you to come out at times when we have open practices, come out and watch us practice.  But more importantly, I want our guys to be great ambassadors in this community and carry themselves the right way.”


(On why he chose to come to UTEP)      

“I want a homecourt.  We played in a very competitive league in the Mountain West.  We played in many great venues.  We got a chance to build that program to a very high level.  But there were nights where we had to create and bring energy to the building.  I know the passion here, I know the passion when Miner Basketball is playing at a very high level, you’re able to have an unbelievable homecourt here.  I often said to myself if I was in this position again and blessed to have an opportunity, to have a chance to move and go somewhere else, I want to go to where there’s a lot of passion for the basketball program and you have people who really want to get behind what you’re trying to do.  We have that here at a very high level.  You can go to a Big 12 school and talk about their venues and things of that nature there, but you’re not going to find a more passionate fan base than here and that’s the one thing that drew me in here, one that I have always admired from a distance, unbelievable basketball commitment here.  And you get this going at a high level, wow.  Watch out.  But that’s the thing that really was the major attraction to me —  the passion, the community, everybody trying to get behind what you’re trying to do at a very high level.  And for me, this was the right time and the right place.  I’m a Texas guy.  I wanted to get back to my region, back to Texas, and this is the perfect place and perfect time and perfect opportunity for me.”


(On putting his staff together)

“We’ve got to hit the ground running.  We’ve got five scholarships to fill.  We’re going to be very selective in terms of who we choose to bring into our program.  I do have a staff in mind already.  I’d like to bring a lot of the guys that I have currently on my staff right now with me.  I’ve got one of my current staff members that is involved with the job and would be interviewing for the job at Fresno State with the hope of keeping some continuity there and maintain what we were able to do there.  But I’m hoping to have the majority of my staff coming with me here.”


(On recruiting to UTEP)

“First of all, we have a great sell.  It’s based on a number of the things that I said earlier in terms of our fan base, the support here, our facilities here are second to none in everything that a recruit needs.  We get a kid here on campus and we have a great sell for this community, for our campus here.  I think if we get them here, we have as good of a chance as anybody to get him.  I’m excited about recruiting a very high level guy here that’s going to have a chance to be successful both academically and from a basketball standpoint as well.”


(On speaking with the returning players)

“Those guys, they are kind of scattered right now all around.  Some are back home, some are on vacation with their parents right now.  But as I got a chance to speak to each guy, each guy was initially very excited about me reaching out and calling those guys and talking to them right now.  Very positive conversations.  I think guys are very excited about me, and I’m excited about meeting them and getting on the floor with them and finding out more about them as players and people as well.  I think the general feeling was those guys were very excited about a new staff and what we’re going to try to do here moving forward.”


(On battling for postseason tournament berths in Conference USA)

“Every year we are going to have our goals, and they’re not going to change from day one.  Our goal is going to be to win a conference championship.  And from there, we’re going to want to try to advance in postseason play.  I think there are a number of different things that you need to align to put yourself in that position as a program – scheduling and competing at a very high level over the course of the season.  We’ve got some really good coaches in Conference USA.  We’ve got some really good venues in our league, along with some really good players.  You get one NCAA participant, you get two NIT participants.  It’s really hard to get to the NIT.  We had two NCAA participants in the Mountain West this year and we had one NIT.  And last year we had three NIT’s and one NCAA.  This year, we thought we were very warranted of an NIT bid as well in terms of the body of work that we did this year and the teams that we competed against as well.  It’s very difficult a lot of times because at that point of the season, it’s out of your hands.  All you have to go on is your resume in terms of your body of work and what you were able to do.  But again, I never looked at it as a deterrent in terms of having to win your league to try to get to the NCAA Tournament.  That’s what we all have goals and aspirations to do every year.  And I think you build your team to be playing its best basketball at the right time to put yourself in position to be able to win the conference championship, to win the Conference USA Tournament as well, and hopefully have a chance for postseason play.  But our league had three postseason teams, and I think Middle Tennessee did a good job with the scheduling piece in terms of who they were playing.  I thought they honestly played well throughout the season.  Some of it, again, is out of your control.  I got a chance to watch Middle Tennessee play this year a couple of times.  They passed the eye test in terms of looking like an NCAA Tournament team.  I guarantee you, a lot of teams don’t want to play those guys on a neutral court somewhere, and that’s what it gets down to in the NCAA Tournament.  But I think our league from top to bottom can be a multi-bid league.  I said the same thing about the Mountain West Conference every year.  I think we should be a multi-bid league.”


(On building a championship contender)

“I think you have to challenge yourself outside of your conference play to prepare yourself for conference play.  I think you always, as you go into a situation, you want to really look and see who are the best teams in the league.  Who do we want to mirror ourselves against.  When we went into the Mountain West, San Diego State and New Mexico, those guys were the top dogs in our league.  And who did we want to mirror ourselves to look more like and to put ourselves in position to win the championship?  And we chose San Diego State.  They were long, they were athletic, they could really guard defensively, and it took us about two years to get those kinds of guys but we reached a point to where we mirrored that same type of team.  So you look at the top teams in the league, you try to mirror some of those and then you try to put yourself in position to be one of the top competitive teams.”     


(On reviving student support at UTEP)

“They bring tremendous energy to the building.  When you’re able to have the students involved and getting behind the team and supporting their fellow students, that makes a huge difference in your environment.  There at Fresno State, myself I’m very visible, I’m very active and I said earlier I want to have a connection to our campus community.  A lot of times prior to the season, I’ll go out and speak to just about every student group myself personally, and try to make a connection with those guys.  And not only myself, I take a couple of players with me because these are the guys that we’re hoping to have goodwill for, that you’re going to feel good about coming out to support.  And then we have those guys through campus a little as well.  They’ve got to be very visible.  In this day and time, you’ve got to be aggressive to get students to come out.  There are so many things that they’ve got going, they’ve got school, some of them are working, they’re doing all sorts of different type things.  But you’ve got to take a vested interest in them.  We’re only going to be as successful as our community support and our student support.  It’s a big part of who we are and what we’re going to be in terms of moving forward.  We need you guys to help us be successful.  But I will be very involved in speaking to every student group, trying to get them involved, we may even have a day where they come over and watch us practice and after practice they come down and get the chance to mingle with the players.  Or maybe shoot some free throws with the players.  Just kind of interact.  But you’ve got to be proactive in this day and time in terms of reaching out and embracing and bringing them in.  You can’t wait for them to come.  The same thing with this community, I’ve got to get out, I’ve got to be very visible, I’ve got to gain your trust, I’ve got to gain your goodwill, I’ve got to want you to be excited about what we’re doing and what our brand is going to stand for.  And I’d like to think that I’m still young enough to have the energy to do that.  I’m getting ready to turn 50, but I have the energy to get out and do that.  I want to be very personable and I want you to know that you have access to myself and I appreciate your support, just like I’m going to appreciate them coming to support us in our arena.”


(On Director of Athletics Jim Senter)

“We’ve got a superstar in Jim.  Jim gets it.  He’s got a lot of energy.  We made a great connection in our interview process.  He was really the deciding factor for myself in terms of wanting to team and partner up with a guy that is passionate about trying to bring back a lot of goodwill to this community in terms of the support.  I’ve been starving for leadership and partnership in terms of the position that he’s in.  I was really excited with his vision and his enthusiasm for where he’s at and what he’s doing.  And not only that, the people he has worked with in the past that I’ve had a chance to work with spoke so very highly of him and the way he carries himself and the way he goes about business.  He was a major reason why I decided to take this challenge on and be a part of what we’re doing here.”


(On which players he needs back for 2018-19)

“As I’ve had a chance to look at the roster and interact with some of the players, I don’t want to lose any guy.  I think every guy is valuable.  There’s not one guy that’s more valuable than the other guy.  And that’s the way I’m going to treat my players.  I’m big on not being a favoritism kind of guy.  I think you’re only as strong as you’re so-called weakest guy or not the strongest guy.  But I treat everybody the same.  Whether you’re a walk-on or the star of my team, you’re the same guy and I expect the same things from yourself and I treat you the same.  So we need everybody.  I don’t need to lose anybody right now to be honest with you.  With that thought in mind, I’m going to try to keep every single guy if I can.”


(On embracing former UTEP players)

“The thing I’ll say to our former players, you’re always going to be vested in what we’re doing.  Everything that we’re doing, you’re going to be a part of.  Your guys’ sweat, your blood and tears with this program, you’re vested in everything that we do and you’re going to be welcome at any time, whether it’s practice, whether it’s games, to interact with our staff and interact with our players.  We want you around.  You are very important to us.  You are unbelievable ambassadors for our athletic program.  But you guys are going to be welcome with open arms to come in and be a part of what we’re doing.  We’re going to create an unbelievable family and you’re a part of our family.”


(On scheduling Texas teams)

“We’ve got Big 12 Texas Tech right across the way a little bit there.  We’d like to try to do something with Chris Beard.  I don’t know if Chris wants to do that, but we’ll try to reach out a little bit with Texas Tech.  I would love to.  Even being far out in Fresno, we came back and played a lot of teams in the Southwest.  We came back in and played a lot of Big 12 schools.  We played some SEC schools.  But I think it’s very important early in the year that you challenge yourself, you challenge your team, you get a gauge for where you are, you try to play a highly competitive schedule, one that’s going to put you in position hopefully to make postseason play.  But no, I’d love to be able to go out and play a competitive schedule against some of the Big 12 guys not only on their homecourts but maybe entice them to come back here and play on our homecourt.  We did that our West.  We played everybody in the Pac-12.  We played Oregon the last three years.  We got Oregon to come to our place this year.  We had to go there twice.  But we got them to our place and we had a very winnable game and a very competitive game.  Those are the kinds of things that we’ll try to do here as well.  We’ll try to not only go away and play, but we’ll try to entice them to come to our place as well and compete here in El Paso as well.  We’ll definitely try to do that.  Without naming names with the exception of Texas Tech so close I had to name those guys, but you could say the same with Arizona.  Arizona is close by as well.  But no, we’d like to play some of the Texas teams and obviously see where we stack up against those guys to get a good gauge of what we are. Obviously, any time we play those guys we play to win.  We’re not just playing them to play them.  So that’s going to be our mindset.”


(On the transfer epidemic in college basketball)

“It has definitely changed the landscape of college basketball for sure.  This time of the year, I know for us at Fresno State over the last seven years, you have different phases of the year.  You’re really in coach mode, and there are times you are in recruit mode.  This time of the year for our staff, I challenge our staff every year to get back in recruit mode, but more important not so much recruiting other players, but we have to keep recruiting our players because other people are trying to recruit our players.  We’ve got to go and re-recruit our guys again.  We’ve got to have those guys feel good about what we’re doing, where we’re going and what we want to try to get better with in the future.  So we spend a lot of time with our players.  In this day and time with this generation it’s so important that you have great relationships with your players, not just in basketball but away from basketball.  You have to have an unbelievable relationship with them.  And that may be over a lunch, that may be over a dinner, that may be over several phone calls on a regular basis, but you’ve got to touch them every single day.  That’s something that we’ve taken a lot of pride in.  We haven’t lost a lot of guys in that regard because we try to re-recruit our guys, no differently from what we’re going to try to do here.  We have ourselves benefitted at times at Fresno State with transfers.  In the Mountain West, I always thought that you needed to try to stay older.  We tried to have a blend of young players and older players.  If you go in there with a lot of young players, boy it’s really tough.  You’ve got to have a blend with some older players.  The thing we try to do with the transfer market ourselves is we try to re-recruit guys that we maybe didn’t get the first time around.  Maybe we initially started recruiting that kid earlier in his career and the next thing you know, he goes from a Mountain West caliber guy and all of a sudden he’s a Pac-12 guy and he doesn’t take our calls anymore.  But we don’t ever blow any bridges up.  We keep those bridges and those relationships open.  Maybe he goes somewhere and he’s not as happy there and the next time around, he’s calling us and saying ‘Hey, can I come back and help you?’  But we’re fortunate enough to be able to take guys that we have had relationships with.  We didn’t do much in the market of taking guys that we didn’t have relationships with.”          

UTEP Names Rodney Terry Men’s Basketball Coach

Rodney Terry, who led Fresno State to the 2016 Mountain West Conference Tournament title and three postseason bids in the last five years, was appointed the 19th head coach in UTEP men’s basketball history on Monday.

His hiring is subject to approval by the UT System Boards of Regents.

“We are delighted to welcome Coach Terry to El Paso and we’re excited about the future of UTEP Basketball under his leadership,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio said.  “He’s enjoyed a very successful tenure as Fresno State’s head coach, and he’s well-known as an effective recruiter with deep ties to the Lone Star State.  We look very much forward to bringing him back to Texas to usher in a new era of Miner Ball.”

“We are very pleased to welcome Rodney Terry to the UTEP family,” Director of Athletics Jim Senter said.  “He’s a great fit for us with his Texas connections and his proven track record as a coach and recruiter.  He’s a proven winner and will represent this proud program well.”

“I’m super excited about an unbelievable opportunity at the University of Texas at El Paso,” Terry said.  “It’s a program that has experienced a very high level of success and has a great basketball tradition that I’m looking forward to building upon.”

Terry, 49, guided the Bulldogs to a record of 126-108 in seven seasons as head coach (2011-18), including 20-win campaigns in four of the last five years.  Fresno State compiled a 62-58 mark in Mountain West Conference play over the last seven years, with double-digit victories in each of the last four campaigns.

A native of Angelton, Texas, Terry makes his return to the Lone Star State.  He played his collegiate ball at St. Edward’s University in Austin, and began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant with the Hilltoppers in 1990.

Following three coaching stints at high schools in the state of Texas – including as the head coach at Somerville HS and his alma mater Angleton HS – Terry served as an assistant coach at Baylor (1996-98), UNC Wilmington (1998-02) and Texas (2002-11) prior to landing the head coaching position at Fresno State.

In seven seasons at Fresno State, Terry coached players who earned a total of 15 All-Conference accolades, including two-time (2015-16) first team All-Mountain West guard Marvelle Harris.  This year, guard Deshon Taylor became the second Bulldog to garner first team All-League honors under Terry’s watch.

Terry also coached second team All-League Kevin Olekaibe (2012) and Tyler Johnson (2014) and third teamers Taylor (2017) and Bryson Williams (2018).  He coached the MWC Freshman of the Year Paul Watson in 2014 and the MWC Player of the Year Harris in 2016.  Three of his players – Harris (2015-16), Jaron Hopkins (2017) and Taylor (2018) – earned spots on the MWC All-Defensive Team.

Under Terry’s direction, Fresno State forged 21 victories during the 2013-14 season, 25 in 2015-16, 20 in 2016-17 and 21 in 2017-18.  The Bulldogs went 10-8 in the MWC in 2014-15, 13-5 in 2015-16 (second place), and 11-7 in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.

In 2016 Fresno State knocked off UNLV (95-82), Colorado State (64-56) and San Diego State (68-63) at the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament – the Bulldogs’ first trip to the “Big Dance” in 15 years.  Harris was tabbed the MWC Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Fresno State’s 25 wins in 2015-16 were the third-most in school history and the Bulldogs closed the season strong, winning 11 of their last 12 games.

Terry also led Fresno State to an NIT appearance in 2017, and a CBI bid in 2014.  The Bulldogs finished runner-up in the CBI in 2014, and their chase to the finals included a 61-56 win at UTEP.

His 2014-15 squad notched the school’s first win over a top-25 team (San Diego State) in 13 years.  The 2013-14 Bulldogs posted the program’s first 20-win season and postseason appearance in seven years while making a dramatic turnaround in MWC play.  Fresno State rallied from a 1-7 league start to finish 9-9.  During the 2012-13 campaign, the Bulldogs secured their first-ever win at UNLV.

Known as an outstanding recruiting and bench coach, Terry has coached two national players of the year and has been a part of 12 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

His nine-year tenure as an assistant coach at Texas produced nine NCAA Tournament appearances including a Final Four berth in 2003, trips to the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008, and four Sweet 16 showings.  The Longhorns fashioned a mark of 232-80 during that span, the winningest nine-year period in school history.

They posted 30 victories during both the 2005-06 (30) and 2007-08 (school-record 31) seasons, and 28 during the 2010-11 campaign.  In January of 2010, Texas reached the no. 1 spot in the country for the first time in school history.

During Terry’s time on the bench, a total of 10 McDonald’s All-Americans made their way to the UT campus (Brad Buckman 2002, LaMarcus Aldridge 2004, Daniel Gibson 2004, Mike Williams 2004, D.J. Augustin 2006, Kevin Durant 2006, Jai Lucas 2007, Avery Bradley 2009, Cory Joseph 2010, Tristan Thompson 2010).

Terry also ran point on the recruitment of 2011 UT signee Myck Kabongo, who competed in the 2011 McDonald’s All-American Game.  Texas’ recruiting class was rated number one nationally in 2004, third in 2006 and 2009 and eighth in 2010.

Texas’ National Player of the Year recipients were T.J. Ford in 2003 and Kevin Durant in 2007.  Ford (2003) and Durant (2007) joined D.J. Augustin (2008) as consensus first team All-Americans during Terry’s time as an assistant, and Augustin claimed the Bob Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard in 2008.

In all, Terry coached 13 players at Texas that were chosen in the NBA Draft, including nine first-round selections and five lottery picks in Ford, Aldridge, Durant, Augustin and Thompson.  Texas was the only school in the country to have a Top-10 pick in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 NBA Draft, and the Longhorns had three players chosen in 2010 and 2012.

Prior to joining Rick Barnes’ staff in Austin, Terry assisted coach Jerry Wainwright at UNC Wilmington for four seasons.  The Seahawks made three postseason tournament appearances during this stretch, reaching the NCAA’s in 2000 and 2002 and the NIT in 2001.  During the 2001-02 season, UNC Wilmington set a school record with 23 victories and scored the initial NCAA Tournament win in school history, upsetting USC 98-89 in overtime in the first round.

Terry assembled a top-30 recruiting class at UNC Wilmington and, during the 2001-02 season, was named the co-mid/low-major Assistant Coach of the Year by, which he shared with Valparaiso’s Scott Drew (now the head coach at Baylor).

Prior to joining the staff at UNCW, Terry served two years as an assistant coach at Baylor (1996-98). He spent one season (1995-96) as the varsity coach at Angleton High School and two years as the head coach at Somerville High School. Terry posted a 15-13 mark at Angleton and a 49-21 record at Somerville, leading the school to the Class 2A state semifinals in 1993-94. He also worked for two years (1991-93) as an assistant coach at Austin Bowie High School.

Terry earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Physical Education from St. Edward’s University in 1990.  During his collegiate career, he was a three-year starter at point guard and a three-time Academic All-Big State Conference selection.  The Hilltoppers won the Big State Conference title during his freshman season (1986-87), and he served as team captain during his junior and senior campaigns.

The Rodney Terry Collegiate Head Coaching Record

Season           School                   Overall         Conference                  Postseason

2011-12         Fresno State          13-20            3-11 (WAC/7th)

2012-13         Fresno State          11-19            5-11 (MWC/6th)

2013-14         Fresno State          21-18            9-9 (MWC/t5th)            CBI

2014-15         Fresno State          15-17            10-8 (MWC/6th)

2015-16         Fresno State          25-10            13-5 (MWC/2nd)          NCAA

2016-17         Fresno State          20-13            11-7 (MWC/4th)           NIT

2017-18         Fresno State          21-11            11-7 (MWC/t4th)

Totals                                          126-108        62-58

H-P Sports In Depth: A Look Back at the 2017-18 UTEP Basketball Season

The UTEP men’s basketball team capped a tempestuous 2017-18 season by winning four of its last seven games, including a thrilling 68-66 triumph at North Texas (March 3) that catapulted the Miners to the Conference USA Championships for the 13th time in 13 years.

There were storm clouds even before the season got underway, as the departure of 6-11 Kelvin Jones and 6-10 Joey St. Pierre left the Miners severely short-handed in the frontcourt.  Then, six games into the season UTEP lost its coach, as Tim Floyd announced his retirement after leading the Miners to a 138-99 mark (75-43 C-USA) in seven-plus years at the helm of the program.

UTEP went 5-7 in the non-conference portion of the schedule.  Among the highlights was a 100-50 rout of Louisiana College in the season opener (Nov. 10).  The Miners blew out to a 32-0 lead in that game, coming within two points of tying an NCAA record (Seton Hall led Kean 34-0 to start the game on Nov. 29, 1998).  UTEP scored 100 points in a season opener for only the third time against the Division III Wildcats.

A series of near-misses over the course of the season began with a 58-56 loss to Boise State in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 16 in Myrtle Beach.  The Miners led the Broncos, 56-51 with under a minute remaining before Boise State closed the game with a 7-0 run, including a three-point play by Chandler Hutchison for the deciding points with 3.1 seconds left.

It was the first of 11 games that the Miners would lose by nine points or less in 2017-18.

UTEP would finish 0-3 at Myrtle Beach and drop six consecutive games overall during a stretch where Floyd turned over the reins to long-time assistant Phil Johnson.  The Johnson era got off to a promising start with a 4-1 record in its first five games, including back-to-back victories over New Mexico (Dec. 2) and Washington State (Dec. 9) in the Don Haskins Center.

Senior guard Omega Harris scored a career-high 28 points in the 88-76 triumph over the long-time rival Lobos, missing just two shots all night (9-for-11 from the field, 4-for-4 from three-point range, 6-for-6 from the line).  A week later, the Miners dispatched a red-hot Washington State team 76-69 with a big second half.

A UTEP team that traditionally got off to a fast start in Conference USA play struggled to a 1-4 mark in its first five league games.  The Miners broke through with a 72-68 victory over FIU (Jan. 13) in the Haskins Center but would lose their next six games, including five to teams that would finish in the top-five of the league standings.

In mid-February, UTEP stood 2-10 in C-USA play and was fighting for its life to make the league tournament.  The game at Charlotte (Feb. 15) was pivotal as the Miners were just a game up on the last-place 49ers.

Seeking its first road win of the season, UTEP led by as many as 22 points in the first half.  But Charlotte came roaring back, forging a seven-point lead with six minutes to go.  The Miners, however, dug deep and outscored the 49ers 12-4 over the final 5:58, as junior forward Paul Thomas’ jumper with 2.6 seconds left propelled UTEP to an 87-86 victory.

The Miners had taken a big step towards a C-USA Tournament berth but, coupled with Rice surging down the stretch, needed to take care of business in the final homestand of the season.  And that they did, as senior center Matt Willms’ tip-in with 25 seconds left scored a 74-72 win over LA Tech (Feb. 22), and the Miners put together one of their better all-around outings of the campaign with a 73-44 drubbing of Southern Miss in the home finale on Feb. 24.

UTEP had a two-game lead over Rice for the final spot in the C-USA Tournament with two games remaining, but its position became more precarious when the Owls knocked off the Miners, 76-70, on March 1 in Houston.

Suddenly, UTEP needed to win at North Texas (March 3) to guarantee a spot in the league’s pinnacle event.  Once again, the Miners stepped up with their backs against the wall.  They outrebounded (18-17) and outscored (40-37) the Mean Green in the second half and rallied for a 68-66 triumph on Willms’ game-winning dunk off an alley-oop pass by freshman guard Evan Gilyard with three seconds left.

The Miners’ season ended four days later in Frisco, as they once again had trouble scoring and rebounding against fifth-seed UTSA.  The Miners averaged 67.5 points per game for the season and were outrebounded by an average of 4.7 per outing.

Miner seniors Jake Flaggert, Harris and Willms combined to play in 359 collegiate games and scored 2,619 points.  Flaggert finished his career ranked 13th in school history in three-point field goal percentage (.366) and is the Miners’ all-time leader in charges drawn (67).  Harris is second in three-point field goals (174), fifth in minutes (3,767), eighth in three-point percentage (.388), ninth in scoring (1,407 points) and 10th in steals (126).

Willms, who overcame numerous injuries during his six years at UTEP, finished third in the record book in field goal percentage (.574) and fourth in blocked shots (125).

As the senior class moves on, a group of newcomers showed promise for the future.  Sophomore guard Isiah Osborne was the Miners’ leading scorer for C-USA games only (11.9 ppg) and scored 20+ points four times, all versus league opponents.  Guard Evan Gilyard led UTEP with five 20-point games, including a UTEP freshman record 29 versus UTSA in the C-USA Tournament.  Gilyard set a school record for freshman free throw percentage (.844).

Kobe Magee led C-USA in three-point percentage for league games only (.531).  His .425 overall three-point percentage rates fourth in the UTEP freshman record book, and his 31 three-point field goals are tied for fourth among Miner freshmen.

Freshman swingman Trey Wade averaged 7.2 points for the season and picked up the first double-double of his collegiate career (10 points/10 boards) in the season finale against UTSA.  Freshman forward Tirus Smith showed signs of being a force inside despite missing six C-USA games with a knee injury.  On Jan. 25 at UAB, UTEP had three freshmen score in double figures in a game (Wade 22 points, Gilyard 14 points, Magee 11 points) for the first time since 1982.

With their inside game diminished, the Miners took the offensive attack outside and set a school record with 224 three-point field goals.  That narrowly eclipsed the 223 made during the 2015-16 season.  The 2017-18 squad was the first in school history to make 11 or more three-pointers in three consecutive games (Rice, Southern Miss, LA Tech).  UTEP’s .371 three-point percentage in C-USA play was second only to Old Dominion’s .383.

In the end, UTEP’s 11-20 record was filled with “what-ifs.”  The Miners tied the school record by losing four C-USA games in which they led at halftime.  They also lost nine C-USA games by 10 points or less.  But in a turbulent year, they ended the season strong to keep their string of C-USA Tournament appearances intact.  Now a new coach will take the helm of the program in 2018-19, and work to build a contender for the league title.

UTEP Battles But Falls To Top-Ranked UAB In C-USA Quarterfinals

FRISCO, Tx – Tamara Seda registered her 15th double-double (15 points, 14 rebounds) of the year and ninth-seeded UTEP made a valiant effort before top-seeded UAB pulled away down the stretch to down the Miners, 75-66, in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Conference USA Championships at the Star Thursday.

The Blazers (25-5) advance to face fifth-seeded Rice in the semifinals while the Miners (17-14) bow out of the event and most likely conclude the campaign having more than doubled their overall win total (8-23) from a year ago.

UTEP dug itself an early double-digit deficit (15-5, 3:39 1Q), but Seda and the rest of the Miners refused to go down quietly against the regular-season champion Blazers. UTEP clawed back within two (33-31) at the half before eventually vaulting out to a five-point lead (56-51) with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.

UAB responded by wrapping a 12-0 run around the quarter break, and it never trailed again. UTEP did score the game’s next four points to get within three (63-60) with 6:17 left but an 8-2 push over the next four minutes sealed the Miners’ fate. Overall UAB outscored UTEP, 20-10, in the decisive frame.

“I’d like to thank everybody here in Frisco and everybody who made this tournament possible,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “The best team won today. They’re the number one seed for a reason. They played really well, especially down the stretch. I hate that for our team because I thought we battled so well to be with them in the fourth quarter. But UAB did what champions do. They hit clutch shots in the stretch.”

Jordan Alexander (11 points), Zuzanna Puc (11 points) and Jordan Jenkins (career-high 10 points) joined Seda in double figures for scoring. UTEP connected on 44.7 percent (21-47) from the floor, including 60.0 percent (6-10) from distance, in addition to winning the boards (35-29) but too many turnovers (19) proved costly.

UAB was paced by 21 points from Deanna Kuzmanic, with Rachael Childress (15 points), Miyah Barnes (13 points) and Katelynn Thomas (10 points) joining her in double figures for scoring. The Blazers nailed 46.2 percent (30-65) from the floor despite UTEP holding the nation’s fifth-rated 3-point shooting team to 32.3 percent (10-31) from beyond-the arc.

Seda, the lone senior on the squad, finishes her impactful three seasons in the Orange and Blue second for career double-doubles (26), fourth in field-goal percentage (49.4), fifth for rebounds (717), sixth in blocked shots (89) and tied ninth for rebounding average (7.5). She is also placed in the career rankings for free throws made (236-12th), free throws attempted (356-13th), games started (61-16th), minutes played (2339-18th), points (909-20th), individual wins (54-tied 24th) and games played (96-tied 26th).

“Tamara has been nothing short of our leader and we appreciate everything she’s done for UTEP women’s basketball,” Baker said. “Our hats are off to her, what she does and what she means to the city of El Paso.”

The two sides traded scores early on, with a deep 3-pointer by Faith Cook tying the tilt, 5-5, on a 3-pointer that she was fouled on. She couldn’t convert on the ensuing free throw, though, and UAB took off. The Blazers ripped off 10 consecutive points to put the Orange and Blue down 10 (15-5) with 3:39 to play in the opening frame.

Roeshonda Patterson made a driving lay-up to stop the surge but UAB answered immediately with a transition lay-up to once again make it a 10-point tilt (17-7). UTEP was able to inch within seven (23-16) heading to the second quarter.

Jenkins drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to get the Orange and Blue within four (25-21) early into the second frame but UAB answered immediately with a lay-up and eventually went back out by six but a Jenkins lay-up followed by a Seda score got it to within two. It was back-and-forth the rest of the frame, with UAB holding the small edge at the break.

The Miners took their first lead (36-35) of the game on a triple from Katarina Zec early in the third quarter. That play started a thrilling sequence which featured a pair of lead changes and four ties over the next seven minutes. UTEP then put together its best stretch of the day by peeling off eight consecutive points to surge out by five (56-51) with 58 seconds left. UAB got two scores to close the quarter, cutting the lead to one (56-55) through three 30 minutes of action.

The Blazers continued the run over the first two minutes of the final frame, to wrap up that aforementioned 12-0 surge. UTEP battled down the stretch but couldn’t get closer than three the rest of the way.

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UTSA Bounces UTEP From C-USA Tourney with 71-58 Win

Evan Gilyard scored a career-high 29 points, but UTEP could only muster 58 as a team in bowing out of the Conference USA Championships to UTSA on Wednesday night at The Star in Frisco 71-58.

UTSA (19-13) completed a three-game sweep of the Miners (11-20) during the 2017-18 season.  It was a similar storyline to the first two meetings between the teams, where UTEP had trouble scoring and UTSA dominated the rebounding battle.

The Miners tallied 61, 59 and 58 points in three games versus the Roadrunners with a rebound margin of -11.7 per outing.  The first two games were close; this one wasn’t after UTSA built a double-digit lead (30-18) 13 minutes into the contest.

“You know, it’s really disappointing,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “Obviously we played those guys twice in two tough games, kind of down to the last minute.  And then for them to get away from us like they did was really disappointing.  We didn’t rebound the ball very well at all and we really stressed it.  But I’m proud of our guys.  Listen, we won four of our last six coming into the game.  We never gave up.  We kept fighting.  We had some tough losses at Old Dominion and other places.  But I give our guys credit and all our coaches credit.”

UTEP led once, 2-0.  Five minutes in, the Roadrunners doubled up the Miners at 10-5.  UTEP fell behind 39-29 at halftime.  UTSA scored the first four points of the second half, stretching the lead to 14.  The Roadrunners took their largest lead of 17 (62-45) with 9:44 to go on a three-point play by Nick Allen.

UTEP got within 10 at the 7:13 mark (62-52) and the 3:52 mark (66-56) but that was as close as it would get.

Epitomizing the Miners’ troubles, they forced a missed three-pointer by Allen with 4:46 remaining.  Secure the defensive rebound, and they’re headed the other way trying to cut it to single digits.  But instead, 6-5 Deon Lyle outmuscled the Miners’ big men for the offensive rebound and putback, making it 66-54 on a backbreaker of a play.

Gilyard made 10-of-25 shots and all six of his free throw attempts.

“He has the heart of a lion,” Johnson said.  “Whoever coaches him next year and for the rest of his career has got a heck of a point guard.  He showed it again tonight and I’m really proud of him.  I’m proud of all of our team for not giving up all year.  We had a really tough stretch there, we played tough teams and we didn’t check it in.  That’s what I’m proud of.  And I thought we were hard to play.  Tonight was really not indicative of what we have been doing the last three weeks.  We didn’t defend or rebound the way we have been.”

Omega Harris scored 12 points and Trey Wade posted his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.  Harris closes out an illustrious career ranked second in school history in three-point field goals (174), eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.388), ninth in scoring (1,407 points) and 10th in steals (126).

Byron Frohnen had a big first half for UTSA (13 points, 6-for-8 FGs), and Lyle had a big second half (15 points).  Frohnen recorded his first double-double of the season (14 points/14 rebounds) with six assists, and Lyle scored 18 points.

The Miners shot 36.7 percent and made 5-of-27 threes.

“They went in a zone and played a zone for 40 minutes,” Johnson said.  “We knew it would be 30 minutes plus of zone.  We spent three days trying to attack the zone.  We put some new sets in and really wanted to move the ball and there just wasn’t a lot there.  We wanted to try to get it down in the short corner and it didn’t happen a whole lot and it just wasn’t very effective obviously, scoring 58.  We knew we needed to score at least 70 to win.  We scored 58 and it’s not good enough against them.”

UTSA outscored UTEP 32-22 in the paint, outrebounded the Miners 45-34 and tallied 14 second chance points.

“They’re real fast, they seem like they made everything early,” Johnson said.  “Frohnen was throwing in some teardrops and floaters from everywhere.  We were helping off of Frohnen and he really got us early.  And then Lyle got going late, particularly in the second half.  We wanted to attack the zone with a lot of the sets and basic movement and motion and get it down low to Matt.  It just didn’t work out.  We missed some open shots and probably took some ill-advised shots.”

The Miners failed to advance in the C-USA Tournament for the first time in nine years, and for only the second time in the last 11 years.

Quarterfinals Bound! Miners Stop Southern Miss 72-67

FRISCO, Tx- Tamara Seda posted a huge double-double (19 points, 14 rebounds) to pace a quintet of Miners in double figures as ninth-seeded UTEP outlasted eighth-seeded Southern Miss, 72-67, in the opening round of the 2018 Conference USA Championships at the Star Wednesday morning.

The Miners (17-13), who became the first ninth seed to win at the league’s pinnacle event since 2012, advance to lock up with top-seed and regular-season champion UAB (24-5) in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Thursday while the Lady Eagles (15-15) conclude their campaign.

It was a back-and-forth contest with five ties and 11 lead changes. The Miners showed their mettle by surviving a 22-3 USM run in the third quarter that turned an 11-point lead (41-30) into an eight-point deficit (52-44) with 2:13 left in the frame. UTEP struck back with a 20-6 surge wrapped around the quarter break to regain the lead (64-58) for good, icing the contest at the free-throw line late.

“Well first of all my hat is off to Southern Miss,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “They have beat some really good teams this season. We were fortunate to come out on the winning side. I’m really proud and impressed with our team today. They’re just really good kids playing some really good basketball right now. I like the way our team is playing right now.”

UTEP shot 50.0 percent (22-44) from the floor, including 7-14 from distance, won the boards (34-25) and nailed 21-25 (84.0 percent) from the charity stripe. USM tried to compensate by forcing 17 turnovers that led to 23 points while also holding an advantage in bench scoring (26-12) but the Miners did too much elsewhere.

Faith Cook (14 points, four assists), Najala Howell (13 points, four boards) Jordan Alexander (10 points, four rebounds) and Zuzanna Puc (10 points, four rebounds) buoyed the play of Seda. Cook nailed a career-high four three pointers to account for 12 of her 14 points (tied second-highest total of season). Nine of Seda’s 14 rebounds came in the final frame.

Southern Miss was led by 23 points and eight assists from Shonte Hailes while Jayla King came off the bench to add 12 points.
The two sides went back-and-forth over the first several minutes before UTEP managed to go ahead by four (10-6) with 2:59 to play in the opening frame.

Southern Miss then ripped off nine straight points to surge out by five (15-10) with 1:09 left in the quarter. Three UTEP turnovers helped fuel the sequence, but the Miners regained their composure with back-to-back scores to cut the deficit to one (15-14) through 10 minutes of action.

A Southern Miss lay-up put it up by three (17-14) but Cook countered by nailing one of her three first-half triples to pull her squad even two minutes into the frame. Seda followed with a lay-up to complete a mini 5-0 push. The Lady Eagles answered with consecutive triples to vault back ahead by four. It remained a four-point differential (25-21) with 3:36 to play in the period but UTEP went to work. The Miners closed the half with a 10-2 run to carry a four-point advantage (31-27) into the locker room.

UTEP continued the surge to start the third quarter, peeling off seven consecutive points to wrap a 17-2 run around halftime. Katarina Zec started it off with a baseline jumper, which was followed by a pair Seda free throws. Cook then capped the sequence by knocking down another 3-point run. The two sides traded triples on the next possession, allowing UTEP to lead by 11 (41-30) with 7:42 left in the quarter.

USM regrouped and responded with a seemingly the demoralizing 22-3 run, including 16 straight, to flip the script. But UTEP didn’t break, instead peeling off eight consecutive points to pull even. Hailes hit a pair of free throws with one second left in the quarter to make it 54-52 through three quarters of action.

Both sides came out firing at the onset of the fourth quarter, with four lead changes over the first 90 seconds of the period. With the outcome of the game hanging in the balance, UTEP scored the next seven points to complete the aforementioned 20-6 push. USM was able to get the margin down to two (64-62). Howell calmly sank two free throws to put the Miners up four (66-62) with 54 seconds left, and USM was unable to get any closer from that point.

The match-up against UAB will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call. It will also be streamed live on Facebook.

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UTEP to Face Southern Miss To Tip off 2018 CUSA Tourney Run

Ninth-seeded UTEP (16-13) will lock up with eight-seeded Southern Miss (15-14) in the opening round of the 2018 Conference USA Championships at The Star in Frisco, Texas, starting at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Wednesday.

The Miners enter with momentum, having claimed their final two C-USA contests to secure their first league winning streak this year, including downing eventual second-seed WKU, 80-75, on March. 3. USM claimed two of its final three, but was upended by FIU, 74-70, on March 3. UTEP is competing at the league’s pinnacle event for the 13th time in as many seasons since joining C-USA.

Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller will have the call of the game on 600 ESPN El Paso while it will also be streamed live on Facebook (Doug Anderson-play-by-play, Kyle Youmans-analyst and Madi Morris-sideline reporter).

The winner of the game will advance to face top-seeded UAB (24-5) in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Thursday.

Fans are encouraged to connect with the Miners on Facebook (UTEP Women’s Basketball), Instagram (@utepwbb) and Twitter (@UTEPWBB). They are also encouraged to use #WeAreMiners in posts.

UTEP is 12-8 all-time vs. Southern Miss, although the Lady Eagles have won three straight games against the Miners for the first time in series history. Most recently USM rallied past UTEP, 60-53, in Hattiesburg, Miss. on Feb. 25.

This is the fourth time that UTEP is locking up with Southern Miss at the Conference USA Championships, but the first occasion that the match-up is being held in the opening round. In 2014 USM downed UTEP, 80-74, in the semifinals. UTEP dispatched USM, 92-79, in the 2012 C-USA quarterfinals while also posting a win in the 2008 semis, 86-69.

“We felt like we let the game at Southern Miss get away from us toward the end last week. So we feel great about our chances and our draw in the tournament. We feel we are playing our best basketball right now, and we are a very dangerous team to play in March.”

Southern Miss got off to a 6-1 start on the season before going 2-4 over the next six games to conclude non-conference play at 8-5. After dropping their first two Conference USA contests, the Golden Eagles won three straight and five of seven to improve to 5-4 in league play.

They dropped the next four before claiming two of three to close out the regular season at 15-14, including 7-9 in C-USA action to earn the eighth seed at the C-USA Championships. Second-team All-Conference USA honoree Jayla King (15.5 ppg-7th C-USA/186th NCAA), Megan Brown (12.6 ppg-21st C-USA) and Shonte Hailes (12.4 ppg-22nd C-USA) key the USM attack.

King also leads the squad in rebounding (7.7-10th C-USA/172nd NCAA), offensive rebounds per game (2.9-tied 7th C-USA), defensive rebounds per game (4.8-13th C-USA) and steals (2.1-5th C-USA/132nd NCAA) while Hailes does so in assists (5.1 apg-2nd C-USA/52nd NCAA), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4-1st C-USA/34th NCAA), field-goal percentage (.526-4th C-USA) and 3-point percentage (.446-2nd C-USA). Amber Landing is the top shot blocker (1.5 bpg-4th C-USA/117th NCAA).

King is seventh in C-USA for field-goal percentage (.510) and 12th in the league at the charity stripe (.791). As a team Southern Miss is among the C-USA leaders and national top 100 for field-goal percentage (45.0-1st/31st), assists per game (15.1-2nd/78th), steals per game (9.0-3rd/86th), rebound margin (+3.8-4th-90th), turnovers forced (17.2-4th/99th) and free-throw percentage (72.7-6th/89th).

The Lady Eagles have struggled with defending the 3-point shot (34.5-13th/307th), 3-pointers made per game (4.1-13th/318th), turnovers per game (18.3-14th/301st) and committing fouls (20.1-14th/319th). Notable Southern Miss alumni include Jimmy Buffett (singer, songwriter and actor), Brett Favre (three-time NFL MVP QB & future Hall of Famer) and Robert L. Stewart (former NASA astronaut).

LAST MEETING WITH SOUTHERN MISS (at Southern Miss 60, UTEP 53, 2/25/18)
Tamara Seda notched her 13th double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) of the season but homestanding Southern Miss made a late run to clip the Miners, 60-53, in Hattiesburg on Feb. 25, 2018. The Miners led 50-47 with 6:14 remaining in regulation only to have the Lady Eagles close the contest on a 13-3 surge to hand UTEP its fifth straight setback.

Those losses have been by a combined 19 points. UTEP connected on 43.2 percent (19-44) to USM’s 41.1 percent (23-56) and easily controlled the boards (39-23) but the home side nailed nine 3-pointers and forced 24 Miner turnovers that led to 35 points. Seven of the giveaways came in the final 6:14 of the contest to fuel the USM comeback, including five straight possessions during the first three minutes of the sequence.

The Orange and Blue led for nearly 25 minutes, and were up by seven (47-40) late in the third quarter only to have the Lady Eagles rally. The game figured five ties and three lead changes. Jordan Alexander joined Seda in double figures with 10 points while four other Miners scored between six-eight points each.

USM was paced by a 22-point outburst by Megan Brown, including going 6-10 from distance. Shonte Hailes and Jayla King each netted 10 points.

UTEP stand 16-24 all time in conference tournament play (12-10 in C-USA; 4-14 as a member of WAC) … dispatched in the first round last year vs. ODU, 80-70, but hasn’t been one and done in consecutive league championships since joining C-USA … played in the quarterfinal round in nine of their previous 12 trips to the C-USA Championships; only three times to not compete beyond the first round (either with a first-round win or bye) was 2006, 2015 and 2017 … advanced to the league semifinals in four of the past six years, five times total since joining C-USA and eight occasions in program history (WAC- 1993, 1995 and 2004; C-USA 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016) … played in the championship contest twice (2008 and 2012), winning it all in 2012 … seeded ninth for the third time (2003-WAC & 2011-C-USA) with a previous combined record of 1-2 in the situation … all seven returnees have competed at the C-USA Championships … Tamara Seda (20.0 mpg, 5.0 ppg, 4,3 rpg, 1.3 bpg and 0.7 spg-3 GP/1 GS) and Najala Howell (13.3 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 0,7 rpg and 1.0 apg-3 GP/1 GS) are making their third appearance in the event while it will be the second showing at the tourney for Faith Cook (6.0 mpg-1.0 spg-1 GP), Roeshonda Patterson (3.0 mpg, 3.0 ppg-1GP), Zuzanna Puc (16.0 mpg-6.0 ppg, 2.0 bpg-1 GP), Rachel Tapps (2.0 mpg) and Katarina Zec (24.0 mpg-2.0 ppg, 1.0 apg-1 GP/1 GS).



Third Time’s A Charm: UTEP Facing UTSA in First Round of C-USA Tourney

FRISCO, Tx – UTEP and UTSA have squared off twice this season.  In the first game in San Antonio, the Miners couldn’t hold on to a 21-5 lead.  In the second game in El Paso, they couldn’t withstand a couple of long scoring droughts.

The end result was a pair of four-point losses – 65-61 at the Convocation Center and 63-59 at the Haskins Center.  On Wednesday, on the biggest of stages, the Miners and the Roadrunners will do battle one more time in the first round of the Conference USA Championships presented by Baylor Scott & White Sports Performance Center at The Star in Frisco.

Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. MT (6:30 CT), and the game will be streamed on Facebook.  Fans can also listen to the English radio broadcast on KOFX 92.3 FM (pregame show starts at 5 MT), or the Spanish broadcast on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM.

In two games versus the Roadrunners, the Miners shot 37.9 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from outside and 57.4 percent from the line.  They were also crushed on the glass (-12.0 rebound margin).  Improving their offensive efficiency and board work will be crucial on Wednesday night.

“We’ve got to do a couple of things better,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “The game in San Antonio came down to the last shot and we didn’t get a shot off.  We turned it over.  We were right there.  We played well.  We had a [16-point] lead early.

“At home, I thought we just didn’t score enough points against their zone.  Sixty-something [points] probably is not enough to beat San Antonio.  I think 70 is the magic number, or thereabouts.”

For all their struggles this season – they bring an 11-19 mark into the C-USA Tourney – the Miners have won four of their last six and have thrived in close games of late.  They won by one point at Charlotte on Feb. 15 (87-86), and by two points over LA Tech at home on Feb. 22 (74-72) and, more recently, at North Texas on Saturday (68-66) in a game that clinched a berth in the C-USA Championships.  Playing well at the end of the season and winning tight affairs can certainly be a recipe for success in postseason play.

“We’re coming off probably our most complete game of the season against North Texas, our most convictive game in terms of defending and running and executing our stuff,” Johnson said.  “I think our guys are in a good place, we’re all in a good place and ready to go.

“I expect this will be a close game.  Both of the previous two have been four-point games, so we’re expecting another tight one.  I know they’re going to really execute.  Both teams will play extremely hard.  UTSA is a tremendous offensive rebounding team, so we’ve got to get better at that area.  But it will be a hard, hard fought game, and I think a great college basketball game.”

UTSA (18-13) will look a little different this time around with star freshman and leading scorer Jhivvan Jackson (18.4 ppg) out for the season with a knee injury.  The Roadrunners have won two and lost one without him in the lineup.  In his absence, junior guard Deon Lyle has stepped up and scored 33 points in the Roadrunners’ 79-60 win at Rice on Saturday.  Johnson said UTSA is doing a few things different offensively without Jackson.

“This late in the season, to alter your entire scheme and offense probably isn’t going to happen,” he said.  “They’ve changed a few things to get Lyle more shots.  So we’ll have to pay special attention to him.  I’m sure they’ve added a couple of sets, as we have in getting ready for them.”

The Miners have advanced in the Conference USA Tournament in each of the last eight years and nine of the last 10.  As the 12th seed, they’ll have to do so as a decided underdog in 2018.  But they have confidence, and that’s a great place to start.

“My initial thought [with UTSA] was when you’ve lost twice in two close games, people say it’s difficult to beat someone three times,” Johnson said.  “I don’t know if I buy into that.  It’s just another opportunity for our team to go prove that we’re better than they are and that we didn’t play particularly well in either game.  I give [UTSA] a ton of credit.  They are a well-coached, hard-playing team and our guys are ready to go.  We’re really eager to get going.  I think we’ll have a good crowd here with all the Dallas UTEP alumni.  So it should be a really exciting night.”

UTEP’s Seda Nets All-Conference USA Second-Team Accolades

IRVING, Tx- Senior Tamara Seda has been voted to the All-Conference USA second team, it was revealed by the league office Monday. It is the first such distinction for Seda while it marks the 12th straight year that the Miners have had at least one all-league representative.

“Tamara is very deserving as an all-conference selection,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “She has improved in a very big way, and she was a true force inside that each team had trouble defending. It’s always great to see a player like Tamara be rewarded for all of her hard work and improvement.”

Seda has been a force to be reckoned with in 2017-18. She paces the team and is among the C-USA and national leaders for double-doubles (13-2nd/37th), rebounding (9.3 rpg-fourth/56th), free throws made (117-3rd/83rd), free throws attempted (161-3rd/67th) and offensive rebounds per game (3.9-2nd/26th).

She also tops the team in scoring (14.8 ppg-eighth C-USA) and defensive rebounds per contest (5.4-10th C-USA) while rating second in field-goal percentage (53.4-3rd/46th).

Seda has reached double figures in scoring in a team-high 25 contests, including seven games with 20+ points (career-high 30-at Cal State Fullerton-12/29/17, 23-LA Tech-2/10/18, 21-WKU-3/3/18, 21-at UC Riverside-12/30/17, 20-Florida Atlantic-1/18/18, 20-Arkansas-11/24/17 and 20-CSU Bakersfield-11/11/17). She also has also shot at least 50.0 percent from the floor in 16 tilts.

Seda and the rest of the Miners will be back in action when they lock up with eight-seeded Southern Miss in the opening round of the 2018 Conference USA Championships presented by Baylor Scott & White Sports Performance Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Wednesday.

Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller will have the call of the game on 600 ESPN El Paso while it will also be streamed live on Facebook.

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Puc Garners C-USA Player Of Week Award

IRVING, Tx- Sophomore Zuzanna Puc has been named as the C-USA Player of the Week, the league office announced Sunday. It is the first weekly award for the Miners this season and the initial such accolade for Puc in her career.

She averaged 23.0 points-on 63.0 percent (17-27) shooting- 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists to help UTEP forge a perfect 2-0 record on the week, including toppling co-leading leading WKU in the regular-season finale for both squads. Her efforts helped the Miners go from a precarious hold of 12th place to securing a nine seed for the upcoming 2018 C-USA Championships (Wednesday-Saturday).

“Zuza has been capable of having a great week like this all season,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I’m glad to see her feel great and play well. We are finally getting to see a semi-healthy Zuza and the things she can do when she is not in pain.”

Puc got the week going by pouring in a career-high 27 points on 9-15 shooting, including a career-best 2-2 from 3-point range to aid UTEP in securing a wire-to-wire 86-70 victory against FIU on March 1. She added 11 rebounds for her second double-double this season, in addition to a trio of helpers in 31 minutes of action.

The native of Poznan, Poland, followed that up by coming off the bench again to contribute 19 points, six boards and a personal-high five assists-with zero turnovers-in 31 instrumental minutes in the 80-75 triumph against the Lady Toppers. The two victories allowed UTEP to close out league play in style while also securing its first winning streak in league play this year.

Puc and the rest of the Miners will be back in action when they lock up with eighth-seeded Southern Miss in the opening round of the league’s pinnacle event at 10 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CST Wednesday.

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Dunk MADNESS! Gilyard to Willms Ally Oop Slams North Texas 68-66, UTEP CUSA Tourney-Bound

DENTON, TEXAS – Matt Willms dunked off Evan Gilyard’s alley oop pass with three seconds remaining, propelling UTEP to a 68-66 victory at North Texas on Saturday.

The Miners (11-19, 6-12 C-USA) secured a spot in the Conference USA Basketball Championships presented by Baylor Scott & White Sports Performance Center at The Star.  UTEP, the 12 seed, will face fifth seed UTSA (18-13, 11-7 C-USA) on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. CT/5:30 p.m. MT in Frisco.  The game will be streamed on Facebook.

UTEP fended off North Texas (15-16, 8-10 C-USA) on Saturday in a game that featured 16 ties and 14 lead changes.

“It was a hard fought game,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “We knew it was going to be because they’re playing for seeding and we’re playing to get in the tournament.  We needed to win on the road.  We hadn’t played very well on the road.  We felt like we didn’t really play as well as we should have at Rice [Thursday].  That was obviously a setback, and for our guys to come back and play well tonight was really a tribute to them.”

The game was tied 10 times in the second half, the last at 66-66 when the Mean Green’s A.J. Lawson split two free throws.

Evan Gilyard, off a high pick by Willms, drove into the lane and dished to Willms for the game winner.  North Texas’ Ryan Woolridge missed a three-pointer from near midcourt as time expired.

The Miners held North Texas to 41.1 percent shooting and did the job on the no. 4 scorer in C-USA, Roosevelt Smart, who was held to 16 points (four below his average) on 4-of-12 shooting.

“I thought we played terrific defense,” Johnson said.  “We fouled too much probably, but it was a great win on the road against a real good North Texas team.  It guarantees us getting in the tournament.  I know UTEP historically shouldn’t be talking about getting in the tournament, but it is what it is.  We’re proud to be in and really proud to represent Miner nation.”

The Miners got some big minutes from their three seniors.  Omega Harris scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with seven rebounds.  Willms had seven points, six boards and two blocks.  Jake Flaggert gave UTEP some valuable minutes in the second half, taking a charge and hitting a three-pointer with 9:07 play that put the Miners ahead 52-50.  And Gilyard was dynamite in the second half, scoring 12 of his 16 points.  He was perfect from the field (4-for-4) and the line (3-for-3) in the second half and scored seven consecutive points down the stretch prior to finding Willms for the winning bucket.

“Omega and Matt, we’re really counting on those two guys,” Johnson said.  “Omega in the first half made a bunch of big shots.  He took the role of guarding Roosevelt Smart and tried to shade him and not let him touch the ball.  I think he did a nice job.  Matt had a lot better game tonight than he did at Rice.  I know he was disappointed with how he played at Rice, and he wanted to make amends for that.  Evan made some huge plays for us and showed a lot of heart, and I really give him a lot of credit.  Jake came off the bench in the second half and really defended and hit a huge three.  He’s back at home here with his family, so I’m really happy to see Jake help us win a game.”

Isiah Osborne was also big for the Miners with 17 points and seven boards.

UTEP shot 51 percent and outrebounded the Mean Green 18-17 in the second half.  North Texas won the battle of the boards by a slim margin, 36-33, and scored 11 of its 16 second-chance points in the first half.

The Miners took a 16-12 lead early, but the Mean Green scored the next 12 points.  Trailing 26-19 at the five-minute mark, the Miners began to chip away behind Harris, who scored 14 points in the first half.  He scored the next four points for UTEP, which closed the half with a 9-3 spurt to get within one (29-28) at the break.

The Miners took their biggest lead of six (41-35) on a basket by Willms with 15:12 to go, but it was a seesaw battle after that.

Miners Knock Down CUSA Co-Leader WKU 80-75

Senior Tamara Seda poured in 21 points, including two free throws to ice the contest in the waning seconds, as UTEP knocked off co-league leader WKU, 80-75, on “Senior Day” at the Don Haskins Center Saturday afternoon.

The Miners (16-13, 7-9 C-USA) shot the third-highest field-goal percentage (57.7) in a conference game in program history while equaling the seventh-best figure overall at the school in addition to winning the boards (35-26) to take out the Lady Toppers (21-8, 12-4 C-USA).

Jordan Alexander and Zuzanna Puc buoyed Seda with 19 points each while Katarina Zec pitched in nine points and a career-high seven assists. Puc also established a personal high with five helpers. Overall UTEP dished out a season-best 23 assists on 30 field goals made.

The effort helped offset the tremendous one-two punch of WKU, with Ivy Brown (31 points) and Tashia Brown (19 points) each putting up huge numbers for the visitors. No one else on the squad, though, reached double figures in scoring.

“I’m really proud of our team,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “I think going through that tough stretch where we lost five games in a row really is the thing that propelled us to win, not just today but Thursday as well. We came out in the first half and kind of hung with them. When that happened it woke our team up and we felt like we could do this. Obviously this is one of our best performances of the year.”

It was back-and-forth early on before consecutive scores from WKU afforded it a four-point edge (10-6) with 3:19 to play in the opening frame. UTEP struck back with a 7-2 push, aided by a pair of triples from Faith Cook, to afford it a 13-12 lead late in the stanza. WKU got a jumper on its final possession to go up by one (14-13) through 10 minutes of action.

It remained a one-point contest in the initial stages of the second quarter but WKU got into a little rhythm on the way to pushing its margin to seven (30-23) with 3:16 left in the half. UTEP tightened up defensively, pitching a shutout the remainder of the period. At the other end of the court four points from Puc, including a pair of free throws, allowed the Orange and Blue to cut the deficit down to three (30-27) heading to halftime.

WKU had a strong start to the second half, twice securing five-point advantages. The Miners didn’t flinch, though, striking back with their own 5-0 run to forge a 44-44 tie with 4:08 left in the quarter. WKU countered with back-to-back baskets to go back up by four (48-44) but the Miners put together a mini 7-2 run to grab a one-point edge (51-50) after three quarters of action.

In the final frame it was the Miners who had the quick start, extending the differential out to five on a pair of occasions over the first four minutes. Both times WKU immediately answered with a 3-pointer from Sidnee Bopp. Consecutive scores by the Orange and Blue made it a six-point contest (66-60) with 5:26 left but a mini 6-0 run from the visitors pulled them even.

UTEP answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play from Seda to break the eighth tie of the tilt, and as it turned out would never relinquish the lead. The visitors trimmed the margin to two on a pair of occasions, but UTEP hit big shots while taking care of business for the most part down the stretch at the charity stripe. Seda was 5-6 at the free-throw line over the final 31 seconds, including the two huge makes with four ticks left to seal WKU’s fate.

UTEP will now turn its attention to the 2018 C-USA Championships (March 7-10). The Miners head to the league’s pinnacle event with momentum, having closed out C-USA play with consecutive wins for the first time in conference action this year.

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UTEP Headed to C-USA Tourney After Wire-to-Wire 86-70 Win Over FIU

Zuzanna Puc (career-high 27 points, 11 rebounds) and Najala Howell (11 points, career-high 16 rebounds) notched double-doubles to help UTEP secure a wire-to-wire 86-70 win against FIU at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.

With the victory, the Miners (15-13, 6-9) snap a five-game skid (losses by combined 19 points) while emphatically clinching a spot in the upcoming 2018 Conference USA Championships (March 7-10). The Panthers (7-21, 4-11 C-USA) fought hard but UTEP had an answer for every run.

Tamara Seda (18 points), Jordan Alexander (11 points) and Faith Cook (11 points) also reached double figures in scoring for the Miners, who shot 48.4 percent (31-64) from the floor while finishing with 20 assists on 31 made field goals. The Miners held FIU to 35.7 percent (25-70) while crushing the visitors on the glass (51-31).

UTEP piled up a season-high 44 points in the paint in addition to going 19-23 at the charity stripe. The 86 points are a Miner C-USA season-high total. Moreover it marked the first time this year that UTEP scored at least 17 points (24/17/22/23) in every quarter.

“We played well pretty much the whole game because every time they would make a run at us we would respond,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “It feels really to get payoff for them; we’ve been working really hard. It’s nice to see them get back on their feet with a win.”

It was back-and-forth over the first two minutes with the Miners leading 5-3. UTEP then found another gear, unleashing a 17-2 run to storm ahead by 17 (22-5) with 2:46 left in the frame. FIU managed to cut it to 13 (24-11) after 10 minutes of action. The 24 points marked the highest scoring first quarter in Conference USA play for the Miners, with Seda (nine points) and Puc (six points) combining for the bulk of the production.

UTEP ripped off eight consecutive points to open the second quarter on the way to securing a 21-point cushion (32-11) with 7:18 left in the stanza. FIU countered with a 10-0 run of its own over the next two minutes to reduce the Orange and Blue’s advantage to 11 (32-21). The Miners went back to work, eventually extending their lead back to 16 (39-23) but once again the visitors had a response. This time it came in the form of an 11-2 surge to close the half and reduce UTEP’s advantage to seven (41-34) heading to the locker room.

To its credit FIU showed some fight after the break. The Panthers cut the Miner lead to three (45-42) with 6:34 to play in the third quarter, but then UTEP answered. It came in the form of 10 consecutive points, including a huge triple by Cook for the Miners’ first field goal in nearly four minutes. The margin swelled to as many as 17 in the stanza before UTEP settled for a 15-point differential (63-48) going into the fourth quarter.

The visitors utilized a 22-10 run over the first six minutes of the frame to whittle UTEP’s advantage all the way down to three (73-70). The Miners didn’t flinch, though, closing out the game in style by virtue of a 13-0 surge. UTEP dashed any aspirations of a late comeback by FIU thanks to going 7-8 at the charity stripe in the final 1:37.

The Miners will wrap up the regular season by playing host to WKU on “Senior Day” at 1 p.m. MST Saturday. The contest will be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call. Additionally it will be streamed on (subscription required).

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Miners Lose to Rice 76-70; Need Win vs North Texas Saturday to Make C-USA Tourney

HOUSTON, Tx – Najja Hunter made 10-of-14 shots and scored a career-high 24 points, and Rice pummeled UTEP on the boards in a 76-70 victory on Thursday at Tudor Fieldhouse.

The Miners (10-19, 5-12 C-USA) were outrebounded 42-33 but, more significantly, the Owls (7-23, 4-13 C-USA) compiled 12 offensive boards and scored 16 second-chance points – including 14 in the first 24 minutes when the game was decided.

“We lost on the boards tonight,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “We got dominated on the glass and I don’t see any reason for that.  That was the difference in the game.  We stopped them 10 times I’ll bet, and couldn’t go rebound the ball and come away with it.  You can’t win doing that.”

The game actually started on a promising note for the Miners.  They built a 21-13 lead on a three-pointer by Omega Harris with 11:08 remaining in the first half.  But they went scoreless over the next six minutes and Rice ended the half with a 23-8 run for a 36-29 lead.

Then the Owls scored the first seven points of the second half, led 43-29 and it was a titanic struggle for the Miners the rest of the way, although they did pull within six with 16:31, 4:44 and 4:06 to play.  A four-point Owls lead (74-70) with five seconds left was Rice’s slimmest since it was 28-25 with 4:17 remaining in the first half.

“We came out pretty strong in the first eight minutes of the game,” Johnson said.  “We had a pretty good lead.  It became a war on the glass, and we didn’t match their effort on the glass at all tonight.  It has been kind of an ongoing [problem] for us off and on throughout the year.  We have been better in the last four or five games.  But this one tonight was a setback.”

The field goal percentages were similar (43.9% Rice, 43.1% UTEP) and the Miners had 11 turnovers to the Owls’ 13.

“I thought we got good shots and we defended good enough,” Johnson said.  “We had some slip-ups here and there on some isolation plays.  Hunter made some shots.  We didn’t think he was that good of a shooter, but he lit us up.  We got out to him and he drove by us.  Overall it wasn’t the effort that we needed on the glass and defensively.”

Omega Harris led the Miners with 18 points, including 10 in the last five minutes.  Isiah Osborne added 13 points, Paul Thomas had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Trey Wade gave the Miners a lift in the second half with 10 points and five rebounds.

So it all comes down to Saturday, when the Miners will either need to win at North Texas or hope Rice goes down to UTSA on its home floor to secure a bid to next week’s Conference USA Championship.

“We’ve got to go win Saturday,” Johnson said.  “That’s the bottom line.  We’ve go to play better.  I expected to win here tonight if we played, and we didn’t play a very good game.  We just struggled.  We struggled making some easy shots around the basket, and we just didn’t play physical tonight.”

Resurgent Miners Travel Across State With C-USA Tourney Berth at Stake

The UTEP men’s basketball team, suddenly on a roll with wins in three of its last four games, will take on Rice Thursday in Houston (6 p.m. MT) and North Texas Saturday in Denton (4 p.m. MT) with a berth in the Conference USA Tournament on the line.

The Miners (10-18, 5-11 C-USA) can lock up a spot in next week’s event with a win or Rice loss in this weekend’s games.  The Owls (6-23, 3-13 C-USA) are two games back of UTEP with two games remaining, and will host UTSA on Saturday after facing the Miners on Thursday.

Thursday’s game will be streamed on FloSports

The Miners edged LA Tech 74-72 on Thursday, then thumped Southern Miss 73-44 on Saturday in the Haskins Center.

“The last two home games were huge, obviously,” UTEP Interim Coach Phil Johnson said.  “We needed to win coming off the Old Dominion game and the disaster out there [on Feb. 17].  That was one part of it.  And Senior Night on Saturday was another part of it.  Just playing better this time of the year is huge going into the last two games and the Conference USA Tournament.  I thought we needed to play well and we did.  I was really happy that we won the two games. And those were two teams that beat us pretty good early in the season.  So we’ve made some progress since then.”

Thursday’s game isn’t a must-win for the Miners, but they’d certainly like to take care of business and not have to sweat it out on Saturday.

“You know what’s funny about it, all across college basketball there are teams playing for a lot.  There are a lot of stakes involved,” Johnson said.  “And this is one of those games where it may not be for the league championship or league lead or anything like that, but there’s a lot at stake.  I think it will be a great basketball game on Thursday.  We have a lot to look forward to, but this game is really important.  Obviously we need to take care of this one.  It will put us in [the tournament] with a win, and that’s our goal.”

Another strong turnout of UTEP supporters is expected on Thursday at Tudor Fieldhouse, including the family and friends of junior forward Paul Thomas.  He hails from Humble, Texas, about 20 miles outside of Space City.

“[The crowd] makes a huge difference,” Johnson said.  “I know last year we were in a tight game and pulled away and that arena was full of people chanting ‘UTEP.’  That really helps, especially down the stretch.  Paul will bring 20 people by himself.”

Like UTEP, Rice appears to be peaking at the right time.  The Owls are coming off a strong performance in their road trip to the state of Florida last week.  They topped Florida Atlantic, 79-76, in overtime on Feb. 22 when Ako Adams banked in a three-pointer from just past midcourt.  Then, two days later, Rice had FIU on the ropes before the Panthers ended the game with a 12-2 run and stole a 67-64 win.

Junior guard Connor Cashaw leads Rice in scoring (15.8 ppg), rebounding (6.9 rpg), assists (3.3 apg) and steals (1.3 spg).  Adams, a sophomore guard, is second on the team in scoring (10.2 ppg) and assists (3.3 apg).  Freshman forward Malik Osborne averages 9.0 ppg for the season, but 11.5 ppg in C-USA action.

When the teams last met, it was 2017 and the Miners cruised to an 80-62 victory in the Haskins Center.  That was a long time ago, and both teams are better now.

“They’ve had some guys really come through for them,” Johnson said.  “When we played them here, really Cashaw was their guy.  We tried to take him out of the game at all costs.  He ended up getting 17, but they were a hard-earned 17.  But since then, they’ve had two or three others emerge as shooters.  They’re a different team, and they’re a better team.  Any basketball team would hope to be much better now than it was six weeks ago.  That’s the case for them, and hopefully that’s the case for us as well.”

Have the Miners reached their peak?

“I hope so,” Johnson said.  “We played pretty well this weekend.  Can we do it on the road?  That my question.  We’ve won one game on the road at Charlotte, in a one-point game.  It will be a real challenge.  Rice is playing a lot better.  They took Old Dominion to overtime at home.  We’ll see about peaking at the right time.  I know we played well this weekend.  That was probably the most complete game that we’ve had all year on Saturday.”

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