window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-29484371-30');
Thursday , August 13 2020
Mountains 728
Elizabeth 728
Utep Football Generic 728
Covid-19 Fund 728
ENTERPRISE 728
TRLA_728
john overall 728×90
EMERGENCE MINDFUL 728.90
PBP_728
Emergence June 11 – Sep 11, 2020 728
Spring Training 728
Home | Tag Archives: utep basketball (page 20)

Tag Archives: utep basketball

Florida Atlantic’s Strong 4th Quarter Lifts Owls Over Miners 72-66

BOCA RATON, Fl.- Tamara Seda tallied 18 points to lead a trio of Miners in double figures but a sluggish start to the contest proved costly in an eventual 72-66 setback at Florida Atlantic Sunday afternoon.

The Miners (10-5, 1-1 C-USA) dug themselves an early 14-point deficit (18-4, 2:30 first quarter), which forced them to play catch-up with the Owls (8-5, 2-0 C-USA) the rest of the way. UTEP trimmed the deficit to five (31-26) with 1:39 to play the first half but the Owls hit two of their nine 3-pointers in the contest to secure an 11-point (37-26) halftime lead.

UTEP managed to get within eight (51-43) heading to the final frame but a strong start to the fourth quarter afforded the Owls a 17-point lead (64-47) with six minutes left. The Miners continued to battle down the stretch and scored the final nine points of the contest as part of a 13-2 run but it was too little too late.

UTEP actually shot a higher percentage (24-61, 39.3%) than the Owls (25-67, 37.3%) but the home side compensated for that through hitting five more triples (FAU 9-30; UTEP 3-19) and winning the boards (44-38). Another factor was FAU holding significant advantages in both second-chance points (21-6) and points off turnovers (24-10).

Najala Howell (14 points) and Faith Cook (11 points) joined Seda in double figures for scoring while Katarina Zec added nine. Tyana Robinson (19 points) and Danneal Ford (15 points) led the charge for Florida Atlantic, which never trailed in the game.

“Kind of how the game went today was that we lost it in the first 10 minutes,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “For whatever reason we weren’t ready to play in the first quarter. We were not ready to match their energy, and they deserved to win. We fought back and made it respectable because our team is bunch of fighters and that’s what they do. I’m proud of them for that but the fact of the matter is that this is college basketball in Conference USA and if you’re not ready to play on the road in the first quarter you really don’t deserve to win this game or any other.”

It was a slow start offensively for both teams with FAU holding a 4-2 edge almost five minutes into the contest. The Owls got things going, though, with a 14-2 run over the next several minutes putting the Miners in a 14-point hole (18-4) with 2:30 to play in the period. UTEP settled down momentarily with six straight points-all from post scores- to get within single digits (18-10) with 23 seconds to play in the period. The Owls used a free throw and a putback off a missed charity stripe toss to regain a double-digit lead (21-10) through 10 minutes of action.

It remained an 11-point contest (28-17) with 5:42 left in the second quarter before the Miners received a transition lay-up from Roeshonda Patterson and a corner triple by Howell to whittle the deficit down to six (28-22) and force a timeout by FAU. An offensive rebound and putback by Seda eventually brought UTEP within five (31-26) with 1:39 left in the half, but the home side had a response. It came in the form of consecutive triples to close the period on a 6-0 push and secure a 37-26 lead at the break.

The Miners went back to work at chipping away at the deficit, once again inching to within six points (47-41) with 1:20 to play. FAU pushed it back out to double figures before carrying the aforementioned eight-point cushion (51-43) to the final frame. But as was the case throughout the tilt, the Owls made the plays when needed. This time it was a 13-4 surge over the first four minutes of the frame to essentially seal UTEP’s fate. That didn’t stop the visitors from continuing to fight in the waning minutes of action but there was too much ground to make up.

UTEP will return to action when it tips off a three-game homestand against Charlotte at 1 p.m. MST Thursday. It will mark the first home contest since Dec. 2. The game will be streamed live on the beIN Sports app, and a TV tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening. It will also be broadcast locally on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz and Traci Miller on the call.

Like UTEP Women’s Basketball On Facebook

Follow The Miners On Twitter

Follow The Miners On Instagram

Follow Coach Baker On Twitter

LA Tech Tops UTEP in High-Scoring Affair 97-88

RUSTON, LA. – LA Tech ended the first half with a 9-0 run, and started the second half by making 11 of its first 12 shots.  That proved to be the difference as the Bulldogs won in a shootout over the UTEP Miners, 97-88 on Saturday at the Thomas Assembly Center.

During that stretch LA Tech (10-6, 1-3 C-USA) outscored UTEP 37-20, negating a strong start and finish by the Miners (6-10, 1-3 C-USA).

The Miners averaged 81.5 points on their first league road trip of the season to Southern Miss and LA Tech, ordinarily enough to win with.  But they yielded 91 ppg with their highest point totals of the season to the Golden Eagles (85) and the Bulldogs.

“We obviously gave up too many points, and that’s not acceptable at all,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “They shot 37 free throws.  A lot of them were late.  We were scrambling.  We were down in the game, really until about the minute mark.  And I thought a two-possession game, we could fight back.  We wanted to be aggressive tonight offensively, and we were.  I was pleased with that.  I thought we competed better tonight overall, but we’ve got to get back to what we were doing two weeks ago and defending.  They just drove by us and we were fouling, so that’s a real issue for us right now.”

Prior to the 9-0 run that ended the first half, the Miners led 38-33.  At halftime they were down (42-38) but not out.  The defensive intensity was lacking to start the second half, and before long the Bulldogs had pushed the four-point margin to double digits.

“Yeah they came out [in the second half] and we didn’t,” Johnson said.  “I thought we were ready.  I really thought we would come out and defend.  Guys were eager and man, they just made everything it seemed like.”

For the second straight game, the Miners were torched in the second half as the Bulldogs shot 69.6 percent (16-for-23) from the field.  That followed Southern Miss’ 74.1 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes on Thursday.

LA Tech led by as many as 13 points in the second half but the Miners came roaring back down the stretch.  They cut an 11-point deficit (84-73) with 3:59 remaining down to five (90-85) on a three-pointer by Evan Gilyard with 1:21 to go.  The Bulldogs scored the next five points, including a crucial three-pointer by Derric Jean with 22 seconds left.

Jean scored a career-high tying 20 points for the Bulldogs, who were missing two starters in DaQuan Bracey and Joniah White.  Jean came in averaging 9.3 points per game.

The short-handed Bulldogs also got overachieving performances from Jy’lan Washington (19 points), Amorie Archibald (15 points), Anthony Duruji (13 points) and Oliver Powell (11 points).  All came in averaging 5.9 ppg or less.  Archibald, Duruji and Washington’s scoring totals were career highs.

The Miners’ Isiah Osborne had a career night of his own (25 points), making 7-of-11 shots, 5-of-7 threes and 6-of-7 free throws.  Omega Harris scored 21 points for the Miners to tie Anthony Burns for 14th place in school history with 1,235 points.

“We need Isiah to score and we talked about it,” Johnson said.  “I’m really pleased with that.  Omega, I thought, played pretty good tonight and tried to shade [Jacobi] Boykins.  Jean did most of the damage, and that was Kobe [Magee].  I probably should’ve put Evan in there to guard him a little bit earlier, but Jean did a lot of damage to us.  And again 37 free throws to our 17, that’s a big differential.”

For the first time in school history, the Miners have made 11 or more three-pointers in three consecutive games.  They were 14-for-22 from beyond the arc on Saturday and are an astounding 37-for-61 (60.7 percent) from beyond the arc over the last three contests – including 24-for-32 (75 percent) in the second half.

UTEP will return home to host Florida Atlantic (Thursday, Jan. 11) and FIU (Saturday, Jan. 13) next week.  Both games tip at 7 p.m.

 

Last-Second Free Throws Lift Miners Over FIU 77-76

MIAMI, Fl.- Najala Howell poured in 21 points, including the game-winning free throws with 3.5 seconds left, as UTEP gutted out a 77-76 victory at FIU in the Conference USA opener for both squads Friday evening.

After the two charity stripe tosses by Howell, the Panthers’ (3-11, 0-1 C-USA) Kristian Hudson misfired on a triple at the buzzer to clinch the third straight win for the Miners (10-4, 1-0 C-USA). The victory is even more impressive considering that UTEP played the final 37 minutes of the contest without leading rebounder and scorer, Tamara Seda, who sustained an early injury.

It was a back-and-forth affair with 12 ties and 14 lead changes. The Miners led by two at the break before a 13-0 run in the third quarter afforded FIU a nine-point lead (52-45) with 2:45 to play in the frame. UTEP was able to cut the deficit to four heading to the fourth quarter and then completed the comeback by outscoring the Panthers, 24-19, over the final 10 minutes.

Zuzanna Puc filled in admirably for Seda with 18 points and 12 rebounds for her first double-double of the year off the bench. Roeshonda Patterson joined her in double figures with 12 points off the pine while also grabbing a career-high five rebounds. Faith Cook added nine points and a pair of helpers.

The Miners shot 49.2 percent (29-59) from the floor, including 41.2 percent (7-17) from 3-point range. UTEP was 12-16 on free throws, including Howell’s perfect 9-9 night.

FIU nailed 13 triples and shot finished at 43.1 percent (25-58) from the floor. Four Panthers hit double figures for scoring, including Alexis Gordon with 18 points.

“I had a tough team on the floor and we really scratched and clawed our way to the lead there and I just felt like our team wasn’t going to let them score,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “In this particular game we had a lot going against us but we wouldn’t just go away. That’s how you do it on the road. When things aren’t going well, you lose your primetime player in the first quarter, you’re down a bunch of points and our team just decided that they were going to toughen up and win. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

UTEP jumped out to an 8-4 lead, including a triple from Patterson, before FIU responded with seven consecutive points to secure an 11-8 cushion with 3:51 to play in the first quarter. The two sides went back-and-forth the remainder of the frame, and FIU held a slight 17-15 advantage through 10 minutes of action.

The Panthers’ Gordon drilled a triple early in the second quarter to give the home side a five-point lead (20-15) with 8:08 left in the half. UTEP countered by peeling off eight straight points. Howell started the sequence with a long 3-pointer. Puc then made a lay-up and after another stop Patterson capped the sequence with her second trey of the tilt. The margin remained five (28-23) with 4:16 to play in the period but FIU used a 9-4 surge to pull even at two. UTEP regained the lead (34-32) at the break thanks to an up-and-under move by Puc.

UTEP received a triple from Cook at the beginning of the third quarter to reinstate a five-point lead (37-32). The margin was four (43-39) with 5:46 left in the frame before FIU tallied 13 straight points in less than three minutes to vault out to a 52-43 advantage with 3:00 minutes to play in the period. Howell ended the difficult stretch with a pair of free throws but FIU quickly regained a nine-point lead (54-45) with two free throws by Shante Walker. The Miners didn’t wither away, though, but instead used back-to-back triples to cut the deficit to three (54-51).

FIU was able to go back ahead by six (59-53) after a jump shot by Hudson early in the fourth quarter but once again the Orange and Blue had an answer. It came in the form of an 8-0 run, including back-to-back steals and transition scores. The Miners managed to extend their advantage to four (65-61) but seven consecutive points from FIU put it back on top by three (68-65) with 5:20 remaining in regulation.

The Panthers were still up by three (73-70) with 2:55 left in the contest but UTEP was not finished. Puc made a lay-up in the lane to cut it to one off a feed from Cook. Katarina Zec then hit a jumper before a free throw by Cook gave the Miners a two-point edge (75-73) with 44 seconds left. Kayla Rogers drilled a triple from the left corner with 26 seconds. The Orange and Blue brought the ball into the front court and ran some time off the clock before calling timeout with 11 seconds left. Baker and his staff drew up a good play for Howell, who drove the hoop and was fouled. She calmly sank both charity stripe tosses and then UTEP guarded well at the other end to hang on for the win.

UTEP will be back in action at Florida Atlantic at 12 p.m. MST/2 p.m. EST Sunday. Brandon Cohn will have the call of the game which can be heard through the 600 ESPN El Paso App.

Like UTEP Women’s Basketball On Facebook
Follow The Miners On Twitter
Follow The Miners On Instagram
Follow Coach Baker On Twitter

HP Sports In-Depth: Miners Looking to Shore Up Deficiencies Against LA Tech

RUSTON, LA. – The UTEP men’s basketball team arrived in Ruston, La. mid-afternoon on Friday and went right to work preparing for the LA Tech Bulldogs.  Tip-off for Saturday’s game is set for 5 p.m. MT.

UTEP (6-9, 1-2 C-USA) dropped an 85-75 decision at Southern Miss on Thursday night as the Golden Eagles posted the best field goal percentage (.603) by a Miner opponent since 2009.  Southern Miss’ 85 points were also a season high by a UTEP adversary.

“We’ve got to address ourselves,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “Obviously we’ll be ready for LA Tech.  But the turnovers the other night, and the lack of guarding the drive, was really poor.  So we’re going to address that here tonight.”

There were some good things that came out of Thursday’s loss.  The Miners outrebounded their third straight C-USA opponent, 32-26.  The Miners have outboarded their first three C-USA foes for the first time since the 2007-08 season.  UTEP scored 75 points or more for the fifth time in its last six C-USA road games dating back to the 2016-17 season.

The Miners’ .680 field goal percentage in the second half at Southern Miss was their second-best in a frame this season (UTEP shot 71.4 percent in the second half versus Rice on Dec. 30).  For the second straight game, UTEP got a big night out of its bench as the reserves scored 37 points.  UTEP’s bench is averaging 38.7 ppg in C-USA play, and has outscored opponents 116-45.

The Miners have also made 11 or more three-pointers in back-to-back games for the first time since January of 1995.  The Miners are first in C-USA in field goal percentage (.494) and three-point field goal percentage (.500) for conference games only.  UTEP’s 9.3 three-pointers made per game in league play ranks second behind Rice’s 11.0.  Scoring-wise, the Miners are tied for fifth with 72.3 ppg through three league contests.  Outside of the turnovers, the offense hasn’t been the big problem.

The Miners need to get back to defending like they did in the six games prior to Southern Miss, where they consistently yielded less than 70 points.

LA Tech, meanwhile, has had its own troubles.  After opening the season 5-0, the Bulldogs are 4-7 over their last 11 games.  LA Tech has lost back-to-back games at the Thomas Assembly Center, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 12 (75-71) and UTSA on Thursday.  The Bulldogs are 1-3 in their last four outings in Ruston after winning their first four home games of the season.

LA Tech is 2-3 since sophomore guard Jalen Harris (15.3 ppg/4.5 rpg), a member of last year’s C-USA All-Freshman Team, announced that he would be leaving the program.

With Harris gone, the Bulldogs have two players averaging double figures in scoring with sophomore guard DaQuan Bracey collecting 15.3 ppg, and senior guard Jacobi Boykins contributing 14.8 ppg.  Bracey is shooting 47.5 percent from the field, and Boykins is shooting 93.1 percent from the line.  Together they have made 65-of-163 three-point attempts (39.9 percent).

LA Tech is second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.381) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.324).  The Bulldogs are third in blocked shots (4.4 bpg) and scoring margin (+8.9 ppg).  Boykins leads the league in free throw percentage, and junior guard Derric Jean is third in three-point percentage (.478).

Boykins scored 24 points in the loss to UTSA on Thursday and is averaging a team-leading 17.7 ppg in C-USA play, shooting 94.4 percent (17-for-18) from the charity stripe.  Through Thursday’s games, the Bulldogs rated 19th nationally in free throws made (271), and 30th in free throw attempts (369).  Boykins was sixth in the country in free throw percentage.

“We’re going to see a really explosive offensive backcourt, maybe the most explosive backcourt in our league,” Johnson said.  “Marshall would be right there with them.  But Bracey and Boykins can really score.  Bracey was freshman of the year in our league last year.  He is a tremendous driver.  He has added a three-point shot to this game.  Obviously he worked really hard over the summer.  Boykins is probably the best shooter in our league and maybe one of the best in the country.  So that’s where it starts, taking care of those two guys.”

The Miners are shooting for their first win at LA Tech since 2004, which would square their C-USA mark at 2-2 heading into a two-game set against Florida Atlantic (Jan. 11) and FIU (Jan. 13) next weekend in the Haskins Center.

***Miners in Depth

ABOUT LA TECH
After opening the season 5-0, the Bulldogs are 4-7 over their last 11 games.  LA Tech has lost back-to-back games at the Thomas Assembly Center, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 12 (75-71) and UTSA on Thursday.  The Bulldogs are 1-3 in their last four outings in Ruston after winning their first four home games of the season.  LA Tech is 2-3 since sophomore guard Jalen Harris (15.3 ppg/4.5 rpg), a member of last year’s C-USA All-Freshman Team, announced that he would be leaving the program.  With Harris gone, the Bulldogs have two players averaging double figures in scoring with sophomore guard DaQuan Bracey collecting 15.3 ppg, and senior guard Jacobi Boykins contributing 14.8 ppg.  Bracey is shooting 47.5 percent from the field, and Boykins is shooting 93.1 percent from the line.  Together they have made 65-of-163 three-point attempts (39.9 percent).  LA Tech is second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.381) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.324).  The Bulldogs are third in blocked shots (4.4 bpg) and scoring margin (+8.9 ppg).  Boykins leads the league in free throw percentage, and junior guard Derric Jean is third in three-point percentage (.478).  Boykins scored 24 points in the loss to UTSA on Thursday and is averaging a team-leading 17.7 ppg in C-USA play, shooting 94.4 percent (17-for-18) from the charity stripe.  Through Thursday’s games, the Bulldogs rated 19th nationally in free throws made (271), and 30th in free throw attempts (369).  Boykins was sixth in the country in free throw percentage.

SERIES HISTORY
LA Tech leads the series 12-10.  The Miners are 1-8 against LA Tech in games played in Ruston.  The lone win came on Feb. 26, 2004 by the score of 76-65.  UTEP and LA Tech were joint members of the Western Athletic Conference from 2001-05.  The Miners went 5-4 versus the Bulldogs during that stretch, including 1-3 in Ruston.  UTEP is 2-5 versus LA Tech since the Bulldogs joined Conference USA for the 2013-14 season (2-2 home, 0-3 away).

THE LAST MEETING
The Miners neared pulled off another stirring comeback victory, but Dominic Artis’ three-pointer with four seconds remaining was no good and LA Tech hold on for a 62-61 victory on Feb. 9, 2017 in El Paso.  Derric Jean put the Bulldogs ahead 62-54 on a free throw with 3:45 to play.  The Miners would score the next seven points and the Bulldogs wouldn’t score again.  But UTEP missed two chances to win it in the final minute.  Artis turned it over with 42 seconds left before missing the three.  UTEP was victimized by a 13-for-23 night at the foul line.  That was a key stat, as was LA Tech making 7-of-15 three pointers in the second half and 11-of-26 for the game.  The first half went the Miners’ way for the most part, as they led by as many as nine points (28-19) and went to the locker room up 30-24.  LA Tech used a 21-3 run early in the second half to turn a 32-24 deficit into a 45-35 lead.  Erik McCree led the Bulldogs with 19 points and eight rebounds.  He was 4-for-4 from three-point range, including 3-for-3 in the second half when he scored 14 points.  The Miners placed four players in double figure scoring — Omega Harris (14 points), Matt Willms (13), Artis (12) and Paul Thomas (11).  Thomas pulled down 13 rebounds.  DaQuan Bracey dished out seven of his 10 assists in the second half for LA Tech, which shot 29.2 percent in the second half but heated up to 50 percent (14-for-28) over the final 20 minutes.

LAST GAME
Southern Miss shot 60 percent from the field, including 74 percent in the second half, and ran away to an 85-75 victory over UTEP on Thursday at Reed Green Coliseum.  The Golden Eagles led by as many as 23 points in beating the Miners for the seventh straight time in Hattiesburg.  Southern Miss is 6-0 at home this season.  The Miners, playing their first road game since Nov. 25, shot 31 percent in the first half and led only once at 2-0.  Despite their struggles putting the ball in the basket, the Miners were only down four (24-20) when Tirus Smith scored a jumper with 3:31 remaining in the half.  Southern Miss outscored UTEP 11-4 over the final 3:15 to take a 35-24 lead to the locker room.  The second half was also a struggle, as it got away from the Miners after they pulled within seven (39-32) on back-to-back three pointers by Kobe Magee and Omega Harris.  The Golden Eagles answered with a 14-2 run and pushed the lead to 19 (53-34).  A late flurry by the Miners made the final score respectable as they trimmed a 22-point lead down to 10 in the final four and a half minutes.  UTEP shot 68 percent in the second half, but only outscored Southern Miss by one point (51-50) over the final 20 minutes.  Isiah Osborne matched his season-high with 17 points (6-for-10 FGs, 3-for-6 3FGs, 2-for-2 FTs) for UTEP.  Harris and Matt Willms scored 11 points each, and Trey Touchet added 10.  Southern Miss’ top three players – Cortez Edwards, Tyree Griffin and Dominic Magee – combined for 54 points.  They made 23-of-32 shots.  Edwards led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Griffin scored 19 points.

MINERS SADDLED WITH ROAD LOSS COMING OFF NINE-GAME HOMESTAND
The Miners fell to 46-53 all-time in Conference USA road games with Thursday’s 85-75 setback at Southern Miss.  UTEP had its five-game C-USA road win streak snapped with the defeat.  A huge break between road games might have been a factor, as the Miners were playing their first game outside of El Paso since Nov. 25 following a season-long nine-game homestand.  Prior to this season, the last time the Miners played their final non-conference road game as early as Nov. 25 was in 1997-98.  UTEP won at New Mexico State, 56-54, on Nov. 25, 1997.  The Miners dropped their WAC road opener at Wyoming, 65-46, on Jan. 8, 1998.  Overall this season marked only the second time since 1970 that the Miners played their final non-league road game as early as Nov. 25.  During the 1969-70 season, UTEP played zero non-conference road games (but two neutral site games) and was victorious in its first road game at Colorado State, 77-64, on Jan. 8, 1970.  Incidentally, that was UTEP’s first-ever Western Athletic Conference game.  With the loss to Southern Miss on Thursday, UTEP is now 0-5 away from El Paso in 2017-18, including an 0-3 mark in neutral site games.   The Miners have dropped their first five games outside of the Sun City for the first time since the 2012-13 season when they opened by losing at Arizona, followed by posting an 0-3 mark in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and falling at Colorado State.  UTEP broke through with a 66-57 victory at Tulane in its C-USA opener and would go on to finish 4-4 in C-USA road games.

POSITIVE THINKING
There were some good things that came out of Thursday’s loss at Southern Miss.  The Miners outrebounded their third straight C-USA opponent, 32-26.  The Miners have outboarded their first three C-USA foes for the first time since the 2007-08 season.  UTEP scored 75 points or more for the fifth time in its last six C-USA road games dating back to the 2016-17 season.  The Miners’ .680 field goal percentage in the second half at Southern Miss was their second-best in a frame this season (UTEP shot 71.4 percent in the second half versus Rice on Dec. 30).  For the second straight game, UTEP got a big night out of its bench as the reserves scored 37 points.  UTEP’s bench is averaging 38.7 ppg in C-USA play, and has outscored opponents 116-45.

ON THE REBOUND
UTEP has outrebounded three straight opponents for the first time this season.  The Miners have had the edge on the boards in their first three C-USA games for the first time since 2007-08, when they outrebounded SMU (40-30), Rice (38-37) and Houston (45-42) to tip off league play.  UTEP hasn’t outrebounded four consecutive C-USA opponents since the 2005-06 season.  The Miners outboarded their first six league adversaries (SMU twice, East Carolina, Tulane, Marshall, Houston) that year.  Since then, UTEP hasn’t outrebounded more than three consecutive C-USA teams in a row in any season.  The Miners’ rebound margin in C-USA games this season (+4.0) rates fourth in the league, behind Old Dominion (+10.5), Marshall (+8.0) and UTSA (+5.7).  UTEP’s rebounding defense of 30.7 per game for league games only is tops in C-USA, with Marshall second (32.0 rpg).

THE TABLES HAVE TURNED?
UTEP entered the Southern Miss game ranked second in C-USA in scoring defense (66.9 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (.401).  After the Golden Eagles torched them for 85 points and a .603 field goal percentage, the Miners have dropped to third in the respective categories (68.1 ppg, .415 defensive field goal percentage).  What’s interesting is that UTEP looks like more of an offensive juggernaut through three league games.  The Miners are first in C-USA in field goal percentage (.494), and three-point field goal percentage (.500) for conference games only.  UTEP’s 9.3 three-pointers made per game in league play ranks second behind Rice’s 11.0.  Scoring-wise, the Miners are tied for fifth with 72.3 ppg through three league contests.

MINERS HIT 23 THREES IN TWO GAMES
Over the last two games, the Miners have made 23-of-39 three-point shots (59 percent), and the number is even more obscene over the second half of those games (17-for-22, 77.3 percent).  UTEP made 12 three-pointers versus Rice, and 11 at Southern Miss.  The Miners have made 11 or more threes in back-to-back games for the first time since January of 1995 against BYU (14) and Utah (11).  UTEP has made double-digit triples back-to-back for the first time since December of 2009 versus Alcorn State (11) and Oklahoma (10).  The last time UTEP made 23 or more threes in back-to-back games was last season versus Northwestern State (eight) and at New Mexico (15).

STANDOUTS VERSUS SOUTHERN MISS
Isiah Osborne continued his strong play in C-USA action against Southern Miss, matching his season-high with 17 points.  In two league games (did not play against North Texas), Osborne is averaging a team-high 16.0 ppg while shooting 60 percent (12-for-20) from the field, 54.5 percent (6-for-11) from outside and 100 percent (2-for-2) from the line.  He also has one turnover in 53 minutes in C-USA games.  Trey Touchet scored in double figures for the sixth time as a Miner (first time this season) at Southern Miss.  He scored all 10 of his points in the second half.  Touchet is 9-for-12 from the field (.750), 2-for-3 from beyond the arc (.667) and 2-for-2 from the line (1.000) while starting all three league games.  He has also posted a solid assist/turnover ratio of 3.5 (seven assists/two turnovers) against C-USA opponents.

STRANGE BUT TRUE FACT OF THE WEEK
UTEP has the C-USA leader and runner-up in field goal percentage in league play only, and they’re both guards!  Kobe Magee has made 9-of-11 shots in conference play (81.8 percent).  Trey Touchet is tied for second in the league with Old Dominion’s Trey Porter, making 9-of-12 shots (75 percent).  Trey Wade is eighth in C-USA in field goal percentage for league games only (12-for-22, 54.5 percent).  UTEP is the only C-USA team with three players listed in the top-10 for field goal percentage in league games only. Magee, by the way, is also second in three-point field goal percentage in conference play (8-for-9, 88.9 percent) behind WKU’s Justin Johnson who is a perfect 4-for-4 from downtown.  In another fact from bizarro world, the Miners’ 7’1” big man Matt Willms is tied for 15th in free throw percentage for conference games as he’s 8-for-10 (.800) from the stripe.

FRESHMEN LEAD IN C-USA WIN OVER RICE
The Miners received a season-high 38 points from four freshmen (Evan Gilyard, Kobe Magee, Tirus Smith, Trey Wade) in their first C-USA win over Rice.  Gilyard, Magee, Smith and Wade combined to make 15-of-23 field goal attempts and 6-of-9 three point tries versus the Owls.  Two freshmen (Magee 12 points, Wade 16 points) scored in double figures for the second time in 2017-18 (also happened against Incarnate Word).  UTEP is 3-0 this season when Magee scores in double digits and 2-0 when Smith does so.

BENCH OUTSCORING STARTERS
For the fourth time this season, UTEP’s bench (42 points) outscored the starters (38 points) against Rice on Dec. 30.  This also happened versus Appalachian State (starters 32 points, bench 40 points), Lamar (starters 24 points, bench 28 points) and North Texas (starters 25 points, bench 37 points).  Overall this season, starters have scored 678 points and reserves have tallied 354.  In C-USA play, starters have scored 101 points and reserves have scored 116.

DOUBLE FIGURES OFF THE PINE
Seven different players have scored in double figures off the bench in a game for UTEP this season.  Listed alphabetically, they are Keith Frazier (versus Appalachian State and North Texas), Evan Gilyard (Washington State), Kobe Magee (New Mexico), Isiah Osborne (Louisiana College, Rice & Southern Miss), Tirus Smith (Incarnate Word), Trey Wade (Louisiana College, Lamar & Rice) and Matt Willms (North Texas & Southern Miss).

WINNING FORMULA
UTEP has averaged 80.8 points per game in its six victories this season, as five players have averaged at least 10 points per game (Keith Frazier 16.0 ppg, Omega Harris 15.8 ppg, Trey Wade 13.0 ppg, Isiah Osborne 10.2 ppg, Paul Thomas 10.0 ppg).  The Miners have shot 50.3 percent from the field (172-for-342) in their wins and have a positive (+1.0) rebound margin.  They have also forced 90 turnovers (15.0 avg.) while coughing up the basketball only 66 times (11.0 avg.).  Another stat that jumps out at you in the Miners’ six victories is a 15-3 advantage in blocked shots, helping lead to a .372 (127-for-341) defensive field goal percentage.

FRESHMEN PG’S PLAYING BIG ROLE IN BALL SECURITY
The Miners have committed 10 turnovers or fewer in five of the last seven games, and that has coincided with freshmen point guards Evan Gilyard and Kobe Magee doing a better job of protecting the basketball.  In the five games with 10 turnovers or less (Washington State, Howard, North Dakota State, North Texas, Rice), Gilyard has played a total of 76 minutes with one turnover.  During the same stretch, Magee has played 131 minutes with one turnover.  In three conference games, UTEP’s three primary point guards — Gilyard, Magee and Trey Touchet — have combined to play 179 minutes with seven turnovers (six of those came at Southern Miss).  Magee has played 67 minutes versus C-USA teams with one turnover, and Touchet has played 59 minutes with two turnovers.

Hot-Shooting Southern Miss Stops Miners 85-75

HATTIESBURG, MS. – Southern Miss shot 60 percent from the field, including 74 percent in the second half, and ran away to an 85-75 victory over UTEP on Thursday night at Reed Green Coliseum.

The Golden Eagles (8-8, 1-2 C-USA) led by as many as 23 points in beating the Miners (6-9, 1-2 C-USA) for the seventh straight time in Hattiesburg.  Southern Miss is 6-0 at home this season.

“The key is 85 points for them.  We’re all disappointed in that and how that happened,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “I thought we were really, really prepared for the game and guarding the drive and guarding the screen and roll coverage.  But they just got by us.  And then the turnovers that we had.  We have been averaging around eight or nine the last three or four games, and now we get 17.  We talked a great deal about that, taking care of the basketball, and they had 17 points off those turnovers.  You take those 17 or even 15 away, and you’re looking at around 70 points.  So that was the real key, just not taking care of the ball.”

The Miners, playing their first road game since Nov. 25, shot 31 percent in the first half and led only once at 2-0.  Despite their struggles putting the ball in the basket, the Miners were only down four (24-20) when Tirus Smith scored a jumper with 3:31 remaining in the half.  Southern Miss outscored UTEP 11-4 over the final 3:15 to take a 35-24 lead to the locker room.

“Our focus [in the first half] was that they’re so small, we wanted to get it to Tirus and he goes 1-for-5,” Johnson said.  “We wanted to get it to Matt Willms down low, and he only got three shots up.  They were switching guards off to our big guys but we couldn’t finish.  Paul [Thomas] couldn’t finish at the rim.”

The second half was also a struggle, as it got away from the Miners after they pulled within seven (39-32) on back-to-back three pointers by Kobe Magee and Omega Harris.  The Golden Eagles answered with a 14-2 run and pushed the lead to 19 (53-34).  A late flurry by the Miners made the final score respectable as they trimmed a 22-point lead down to 10 in the final four and a half minutes.

UTEP shot 68 percent in the second half, but only outscored Southern Miss by one point (51-50) over the final 20 minutes.

Isiah Osborne matched his season-high with 17 points (6-for-10 FGs, 3-for-6 3FGs, 2-for-2 FTs) for UTEP.  Harris and Willms scored 11 points each, and Trey Touchet added 10.

Southern Miss’ top three players – Cortez Edwards, Tyree Griffin and Dominic Magee – combined for 54 points.  They made 23-of-32 shots.  Edwards led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, and Griffin scored 19 points.

The Miners will conclude their first C-USA road trip of the season on Saturday at LA Tech.  Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. MT.

Story+Gallery: Miners Dominate Owls in 2nd Half, Roll to 80-62 Win

Facing a new heap of adversity after losing leading scorer Keith Frazier to a leave of absence, the UTEP Miners turned in perhaps their most complete effort of the season in an 80-62 ambush of Rice on Saturday in the Haskins Center.

UTEP (6-8, 1-1 C-USA) completed a 5-2 December by dominating the Owls over the final 20 minutes. The Miners shot 71.4 percent in the second half, when they made 8-of-10 threes and outrebounded the Owls 18-13.

UTEP outscored Rice (3-12, 0-2 C-USA) by the score of 51-31 over the final 20 minutes, erasing a 31-29 deficit at the intermission.

With Frazier out, the Miners needed all hands on deck and they got contributions up and down the roster. With Omega Harris (five points), Paul Thomas (four) and Matt Willms (four) combining for 13 points, three newcomers – Kobe Magee, Isiah Osborne, Trey Wade – all tallied at least 12 points each. They combined for 43 of UTEP’s 80 points, connecting on 17-of-25 shots and 9-of-13 three pointers.

Wade led the way with 16 points (7-for-11 FGs) and seven rebounds. Osborne scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and Magee added 12 on a perfect night (4-for-4) both from the floor and from distance.

All 10 players who saw action scored, with Tirus Smith adding nine points and Trey Touchet eight.

“The ball moved tonight, better probably than it has all season,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “I’m really proud of our new guys, our freshmen, to really score like that and have [14] assists because the ball moved. We talked to our guys a lot about that, because we’re next-to-last or last in our league in assists. So what does that mean? It’s too much one-on-one, the ball is not moving and we’re not getting the ball deep in the lane and at the rim. That changed a little bit tonight. We did it without Matt having a huge night, Omega having a huge night and Paul, our veteran guys. We did it with a lot of the new guys. And so I’m really pleased to see Trey Wade and Isiah [Osborne] play so well.”

The Miners shot 39.3 percent in the first half but Johnson didn’t make any major adjustments, figuring his team was due to start making them.

“We’re getting good shots at halftime,” he said. “We don’t need to change and do anything crazy offensively. I felt like the shots would drop. [Omega] just didn’t have it going and so we made a move with Isiah and that helped. He felt good. The big message at halftime was rebound the glass. You’ve got to go crush it. They were killing us and coming out of nowhere, and I thought really just mauling our guys and they came from behind slapping, and that’s what they do and that’s ok. They play hard. And I give them credit.”

UTEP trailed 39-34 when Rice’s Connor Cashaw hit a three pointer with 17:32 remaining. After that, the Miners went on a 22-6 run over the next nine minutes to charge ahead 56-45. Osborne scored nine points during the run.

Rice cut the deficit to eight (56-48) on a layup by Miles Lester with 7:52 to play. UTEP put it away with a 20-8 spurt, pushing the lead to 20.

UTEP shot 55.4 percent, its best figure since the season opener versus Louisiana College (57.8 percent). The Miners made 12-of-19 threes (63.2 percent) to improve to 5-1 this season when they score 70 points or more.

“I think there’s a reason we scored more points, because the ball moved,” Johnson said. “When you shoot with your feet set and you’re expecting the ball to move to you, you make more shots versus just going one-on-one and trying to force a shot.”

Now it’s off to the first C-USA road trip of the season. The Miners will play at Southern Miss on Thursday (6 p.m. MT) and LA Tech Saturday (5 p.m. MT). The Southern Miss game will be televised on beIN Sports.

Photos by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

UTEP Leads Entire Game, Nets 73-62 Win At UC Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Ca.- Najala Howell poured in a career-high 23 points while Tamara Seda notched her second straight double-double (21 points, 14 rebounds) to help power the UTEP women’s basketball team to a wire-to-wire 73-62 win at UC Riverside Saturday evening.

The Miners (9-4) bolted out to a 20-point lead at the half and led by 17 with six minutes to play before the Highlanders (3-11) scored the next 12 points in the game to cut the margin down to five (67-62).

UTEP kept its composure while regaining momentum for good on a triple by Howell to help fuel a game-closing 6-0 run. Faith Cook, who finished with seven points and six assists, set up both field goals down the stretch.

UTEP connected on 43.9 percent (29-66) from the floor, aided by drilling 20-36 during the impressive opening half. The Miners dished out a season-high 20 assists while finishing with a season-low 14 turnovers for the second time in as many nights. Zuzanna Puc joined Howell and Seda in double figures for scoring with a campaign-high 15 points in 25 minutes of action off the pine.

It was an impressive win, considering that less than 24 hours ago UTEP outlasted Cal State Fullerton, 92-91, in double overtime. The effort allows the Miners to cap non-conference play at 9-4 on the season, which already surpasses the entire win total (8-23) from last season.

UCR was led by a 21-point, nine-rebound effort by Michelle Curry.

“I think that being in this situation last night really helped us tonight,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “Again we gritted our teeth and figured out a way to win. I’m proud of the team. It was a great road trip for us.”

UTEP raced out to a 9-0 lead just three minutes into the contest, forcing UCR to call a timeout. The home side was able to stem the tide temporarily and trailed by five (12-7) with 5:17 to play in the period. UTEP found another gear, though, closing the quarter on a 13-2 run to surge out to an 16-point advantage (25-9) through 10 minutes of action.

The 25 points established a first quarter season-high. Howell was crucial during the opening frame, accounting for more than half (13 of 25) of the Miners’ points in the frame. Her 13 points ranked tied as the fourth-highest individual scoring output in a quarter in program history.

UCR reduced the deficit to 13 (28-15) with 8:32 to play in the half before the Miners responded by ripping off seven consecutive points to vault out to a 20-point advantage (35-15) with 6:06 to play in the half. The two sides went back-and-forth the remainder of the period, and UTEP cruised into halftime armed with a 20-point lead (49-29).

It marked the highest scoring first half of the season for the Miners, in addition to the largest halftime advantage. Howell (15 points) and Seda (14) combined for 29 points in the period to match UCR’s team total.

Howell picked up where she left off in the third quarter with a triple on UTEP’s opening possession to put the Miners up 52-29. The margin remained 23 (56-33) with 4:31 left in the frame before UCR switched up its defensive strategies by deploying a full-court press.

The move paid off as it disrupted UTEP’s rhythm, with the Highlanders peeling off 11 straight points to cut the lead down to 12 (56-44) with 1:24 left in the quarter. The Miners registered the final three points in the frame, thanks to a free throw by Seda and a lay-up from Puc to carry a 15-point advantage (59-44) into the fourth quarter.

It was back-and-forth over the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, with UTEP maintaining a comfortable 17-point lead (65-48) with 6:29 remaining in regulation. UCR was determined to not go down without a fight, as it began to mount a furious comeback. The Highlanders ripped off a 12-0 run over the next four minutes to claw within five (67-62).

UTEP kept its composure, and Howell hit a wide-open trey from the wing to regain momentum. The Miners then got a stop before a lay-up by Seda put them up 10 (72-62) with 1:10 left. Cook added a free throw for good measure to cap the game-ending 6-0 push.

The Miners will return to action when they christen Conference USA play at FIU at 5 p.m. MST/7 p.m. EST on Friday. Brandon Cohn will have the call for 600 ESPN El Paso

Like UTEP Women’s Basketball On Facebook

Follow The Miners On Twitter

Follow The Miners On Instagram

Follow Coach Baker On Twitter

UTEP Drops Cal State Fullerton in Double-OT 92-91

FULLERTON, Ca.- Tamara Seda posted a huge double-double (career-high 30 points, 12 rebounds) to help the UTEP women’s basketball team outlast homestanding Cal State Fullerton, 92-91, in double overtime Friday night.

The game featured six ties and eight lead changes, with the final one coming after Zuzanna Puc banked home a runner in the lane to put the Miners (8-4) up by one with 15 seconds left. The Titans (5-8), who had their three-game winning streak snapped, misfired on a baseline jumper as time expired.

UTEP connected on 54.0 percent (34-63) of its shots, won the boards (35-33) and committed a season-low tying 14 turnovers. Katarina Zec poured in 21 points to buoy Seda while Najala Howell (16 points) and Puc (12 points) also reached double figures in scoring. Faith Cook tallied five points to go along with a team-high four assists.

Jade Vega registered 24 points to lead a quintet of Cal State Fullerton players in double figures for scoring.

“Does tonight’s game not speak to the resiliency of our team?” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We won that game about four or five different times. Luckily we pulled it out in double overtime. I’m very proud of our team. What a great game. It’s a shame anybody had to lose it but I’m glad we came out on top.”

After an early 2-2 tie the Miners ripped off seven straight points to surge ahead at 9-2 with 6:37 to play in the first quarter. Cal State Fullerton fought back to trim the deficit to two (14-12) but UTEP countered with another 7-0 surge. Howell was instrumental in the sequence with five of the points. China Henderson knocked down a jumper to halt the sequence but the Orange and Blue tallied the final three points in the period to lead by 10 (24-14) after 10 minutes of action. It marked the highest scoring first quarter of the year for the Miners.

Cal State Fullerton managed to get within six (30-24) with 6:52 to play in the half but the Orange and Blue had an answer. It came in the form of an 8-0 push, including back-to-back triples from Zec. The two sides traded baskets over the remainder of the stanza, with UTEP holding a comfortable 16-point cushion (48-32) at the half. The 48 points established a first-half season high for the Miners.

The home side came out firing to start the third quarter, using back-to-back triples early in the frame to power a 10-0 run and cut the Miners’ lead to eight (52-44). Seda stopped the sequence with a strong post move to reinstate a double-digit advantage (54-44). The cushion swelled to as many as 15 before a jump shot from Cal State Fullerton’s Xinavane Forman made it a 13-point contest (63-50) heading to the fourth quarter.

The Titans peeled off 15 straight points over the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the frame to take the lead. Cook nailed a long two to tie the tilt with 1:32 left in regulation. UTEP then pushed ahead by three with a jumper from Zec and a free throw by Jordan Alexander. The Titans tied the game on a triple by Triann Thompson with six seconds left. A giveaway by Cook got the home side the ball back with 0.6 seconds, but a potential game-winning jumper was waived off after an official review to send the contest to overtime.

UTEP surged ahead by six (77-71) in overtime before Cal State Fullerton used a five-point trip to make it a one-point game. Hannah Thompson sunk a trey and Carolyn Gill hit two free throws as the result of a simultaneous foul away from the ball. After Seda scored to put the Miners back up by three the Titans forced double overtime on Vega’s homerun ball.

In double overtime it went back-and-forth with six lead changes but thanks to Puc and company the Miners pulled out the win. She scored six of her 12 points in the period, including the eventual game-winning shot. Another big play in the double overtime period was a straight away triple from Cook to put the Orange and Blue up by two with 2:08 to play.

UTEP will wrap up non-conference play while playing for the second time in as many days in California when they lock up at UC Riverside at 5 p.m. PST/6 p.m. MST Saturday.

The contest will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso with Steve Kaplowitz on the call.

Like UTEP Women’s Basketball On Facebook

Follow The Miners On Twitter

Follow The Miners On Instagram

Follow Coach Baker On Twitter

North Texas Tops UTEP in C-USA Opener 63-62

Roosevelt Smart scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half as North Texas rallied for a 63-62 win over UTEP in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Thursday in the Haskins Center.

The Mean Green (8-6, 1-0 C-USA) snapped a nine-game losing streak at the hands of the Miners (5-8, 0-1 C-USA).

Smart finished 9-for-13 from the field, 3-for-5 from three-point range and 8-for-10 from the line.  He scored the final 15 points for North Texas.

The Miners led 30-24 at halftime but were outscored 39-32 over the final 20 minutes.  Smart was 8-for-10 from the line in the second half, while UTEP was 2-for-5 as a team.

“We didn’t make our free throws down the stretch and we had some real defensive lapses,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “We wanted to take Smart out of the game and we just didn’t do the job there.  We take a lot of pride in taking the other team’s best player out and limiting him, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Johnson received a double technical and was ejected with 6:28 remaining after arguing that North Texas committed a shot clock violation.  Following the free throws, the Mean Green led 51-46.  It was a key sequence but the Miners battled back to tie it twice, at 51-51 with 4:07 remaining and 56-56 with 2:25 to go.  Smart answered with a three-pointer both times.

Smart’s jumper with 23 seconds left put the Mean Green ahead 61-56 and appeared to put the game out of reach.  But a couple of three-pointers by Keith Frazier cut the lead to one (63-62) with three seconds left.  Paul Thomas stole Ryan Woolridge’s inbound pass but missed a potential game-winning shot as time ran out.

Smart did most of the damage for North Texas but Shane Temara also hurt the Miners with 14 points and four three-pointers.

Frazier (13 points) and Matt Willms (11) combined for 24 points off the bench for UTEP.  Frazier scored all 13 of his points in the second half, and Willms pulled down eight rebounds as the Miners won the battle of the boards 35-32.

“We wanted to get the ball inside tonight, particularly with Matt,” Johnson said.  “And we did at times.  I thought when we did, we were very successful.  I told our team today, he’s going to touch it.  We’re going to get it down there to him, and we did, and probably could have a lot more.”

The game was fairly even statistically but in the end the Mean Green had Smart, and the Miners didn’t.

“I’m proud of some things,” Johnson said.  “Ten turnovers, six at half.  A couple of them were unnecessary.  We defended for about 32 minutes really well, and about eight minutes we didn’t.  We didn’t guard their out of bounds out of our zone and get to the corners and gave up two threes.  That was a big difference too.

“Winnable game, and I told the guys this one’s probably on me.  With that said, we didn’t play great, we missed a lot of free throws and front ends and didn’t rebound it down the stretch.  But the three free throws that they got out of [the technical] was unnecessary.”

The Miners will wrap up a season-long nine-game homestand by hosting Rice on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Gallery by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

HP Sports In-Depth: Miners Set to Tip-Off C-USA Play at Home on Thursday

The UTEP men’s basketball team will open Conference USA play at home against North Texas on Thursday (December 28) at 7 p.m., in the earliest launch of the league schedule since 2001.

And whether they began the conference slate early or late, the Miners are eager to put their 5-7 non-conference record behind them and start fresh at 0-0.

“Conference play, really across the country in college basketball, is an exciting time and everybody is trying to make that move to get to the NCAA Tournament,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said. “Everything picks up in conference play. Everybody plays a little better, everybody plays a little harder and tougher, and every game is so meaningful. This year we start right off the bat with a really good North Texas team that had a real chance to win at Georgetown and played very well, and beat a really good San Diego team the other night. They are showing signs of being probably the best North Texas team that I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

North Texas is coached by Grant McCasland, who led Arkansas State to a 20-12 mark (11-7 Sun Belt Conference) in his only previous season as a Division I head coach in 2016-17. McCasland was also the head coach at Midland College (2004-09) and Division II Midwestern State (2009-11), and an assistant at Baylor (2011-16).

The Mean Green was 7-6 in the non-conference portion of its schedule (6-1 home, 1-5 away). North Texas has won three of its last four games, including an 86-83, overtime triumph at San Diego on Dec. 16.

Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart, a transfer from New Mexico JC, is averaging a team-leading 17.6 ppg. He is one of five Mean Green players with double-figure scoring averages, joining sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge (13.5 ppg), senior forward Shane Temara (11.2 ppg), sophomore guard A.J. Lawson (10.8 ppg) and freshman guard Umoja Gibson (10.5 ppg). Smart is the league leader in free throw percentage (.922) and three-pointers made per game (3.2).

“They’re playing a lot harder and they’re defending a lot better than I have seen them defend in the past,” Johnson said. “Coach McCasland has really got them giving good effort. They have added a junior college player or two that are tremendous and they have a really, really good point guard who is a tremendous driver. They rebound the ball, and that has been our Achilles heel.”

North Texas’ rebound margin is +4.5 per game, third-best in Conference USA. The Miners have been outrebounded in each of the last six games, largely without 7’1” Matt Willms, who returned to practice this week.

“Hopefully we’ll get Matt back at some point,” Johnson said. “I don’t know when that will be. I don’t know if he’ll play Thursday or not. We’re just trying to get a few minutes out of him every day in practice.”

Also back practicing is freshman guard Trey Wade, who missed a handful of games while visiting his family following the passing of his grandmother.

“We are constantly working with Trey because he has very nice talent, he’s a great kid and we’re trying to get him to become a better defender,” Johnson said. “He has skills and I really think he can help us on the glass, and that’s where we need him the most.”

UTEP will host North Texas and Rice (Saturday) before embarking on its first league road trip to Southern Miss and LA Tech next week. The Miners would love to get off to a good start in C-USA play while defending their homecourt, where they have won 23 of their last 26 conference games.

If UTEP is going to make a run at the 2018 Conference USA championship, there are a few things they’ll have to do better, according to Johnson.

“We’ll have to rebound the ball better,” he said. “We’ll have to take care of the ball a little bit better, although in the last couple of games I think we have had six turnovers and eight turnovers. So those are livable numbers. But the glass in the last game was 50-30 and again, I think Matt will help us in that area. But we’ve got to work on just getting better overall at rebounding the basketball.”

Tickets for each of the Miners’ nine C-USA home games start at just $8 and are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

***IN DEPTH – UTEP vs North Texas 

UTEP IN CONFERENCE USA
This is the Miners’ 13th year in the league.  UTEP has posted a combined mark of 125-71 in C-USA games (79-19 at home, 46-52 on the road).  The Miners are 23-3 in their last 26 C-USA home games dating back to the 2014-15 season.  UTEP has posted double-digit C-USA victories in eight of the last nine years.

UTEP is 9-3 in C-USA openers with losses to Marshall on Jan. 4, 2012 (76-60), Charlotte on Jan. 9, 2014 (73-68) and UTSA on Jan. 1, 2017 (67-55).  UTEP is also 9-3 in C-USA home openers.  The Miners are opening C-USA play by facing North Texas and Rice for the third time in four years.  In 2015, UTEP christened the league slate by winning at North Texas (85-71) and Rice (66-57).  In 2016, the Miners also started 2-0 in league play by topping Rice (61-60) and North Texas (84-75) in the Haskins Center.

UTEP’S CONFERENCE USA EXPERIENCE
Six of the Miners’ 11 scholarship players have gotten a taste of Conference USA competition.  Senior guard Omega Harris has appeared in 54 league games (46 starts), senior forward Jake Flaggert 50 games (16 starts), senior center Matt Willms 46 games (33 starts), junior forward Paul Thomas 27 games (18 starts) and junior guard Trey Touchet 34 games (two starts).  Grad transfer Keith Frazier played in four games for North Texas during the 2016-17 season, and appeared in the Mean Green’s first two C-USA contests at Charlotte and Old Dominion.

ON THE AIR
The English radio broadcast is available on KOFX 92.3 FM with Jon Teicher (play-by-play) and Steve Yellen (color) calling the action.  A Spanish radio broadcast is available on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM, with Omar Ropele on the mike.

ABOUT NORTH TEXAS
North Texas is coached by Grant McCasland, who led Arkansas State to a 20-12 mark (11-7 Sun Belt Conference) in his only previous season as a Division I head coach in 2016-17.  McCasland was also the head coach at Midland College (2004-09) and Division II Midwestern State (2009-11), and an assistant at Baylor (2011-16).

The Mean Green was 7-6 in the non-conference portion of its schedule (6-1 home, 1-5 away).  North Texas has won three of its last four games, including an 86-83, overtime triumph at San Diego on Dec. 16.  The Mean Green returned three starters and five lettermen from last year’s 8-22 squad (2-16 C-USA/14th place).  Sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart, a transfer from New Mexico JC, is averaging a team-leading 17.6 ppg.  He is one of five Mean Green players with double-figure scoring averages, joining sophomore guard Ryan Woolridge (13.5 ppg), senior forward Shane Temara (11.2 ppg), sophomore guard A.J. Lawson (10.8 ppg) and freshman guard Umoja Gibson (10.5 ppg).  As a team, North Texas is averaging 77.2 points per game with a .464 field goal percentage, .342 three-point field goal percentage and .668 free throw percentage.  The Mean Green is yielding 72.8 ppg with a .424 defensive field goal percentage and .350 defensive three-point field goal percentage.  North Texas is third in C-USA in rebound margin (+4.5 rpg).  Smart is the league leader in free throw percentage (.922) and three-pointers made per game (3.2).

SERIES HISTORY
UTEP holds a 9-2 edge in the series and has won nine straight over the Mean Green.  UTEP is 4-0 all-time versus UNT in El Paso, including an 87-69 triumph on Dec. 29, 1956 in the midst of a Border Conference championship season.

THE LAST MEETING
Paul Thomas set career-highs for points (23) and rebounds (14), and Dominic Artis scored 10 of his 19 points in overtime as UTEP rallied past North Texas, 77-71, on Feb. 16, 2017 at the Super Pit in Denton.  The Miners trailed 44-34 with 14:35 to play, but scored the next seven points to creep within three.

UTEP got down six three times, the last with 6:16 remaining (55-49), but outscored the Mean Green 16-10 over the final 5:58 to force an extra period.  Thomas’ three-point play with 1:22 left knotted it at 65 and neither team scored again in regulation.  UTEP took charge by scoring the first five points, and seven of the first eight, in overtime.  Artis’ three-pointer with 3:15 to go pushed a 67-65 lead to 70-65.  The Miners built a six-point lead (72-66) on a jumper by Artis with 1:28 to play, then held off the Mean Green down the stretch.

Artis scored the Miners’ final 10 points and 10 of 12 in overtime.  North Texas made 11-of-31 three pointers behind a career night from Derail Green, who scored 21 points and hit 7-of-11 from beyond the arc.  But they were bound to start missing eventually, and they finally did in overtime when they were 2-for-7 from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown.  Thomas made 10-of-16 shots while adding four assists and two steals.  Artis was 5-for-6 from the line, all in overtime.  Omega Harris scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, and Matt Willms contributed 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

TAKING DOWN TEXAS
UTEP is 29-2 in home games versus Conference USA Texas schools since joining the league for the 2005-06 season.  The breakdown by opponent is as follows: SMU (8-0), Houston (7-1), Rice (8-1), UTSA (4-0) and North Texas (2-0).  The Miners haven’t dropped a home game to a C-USA school from Texas since Feb. 29, 2012, when Rice spoiled the Miners’ “Senior Day” with a 68-61 triumph  The homecourt win streak over C-USA Texas schools stands at 12 games.

LAST GAME
North Dakota State outscored UTEP 19-2 over the final 7:35 en route to a 63-51 victory in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational championship game last Friday in the Haskins Center.  The Miners, who had their four-game win streak snapped, led 49-44 after Keith Frazier hit a jumper with 7:53 to go.  After that, North Dakota State scored 14 unanswered points before Frazier ended the scoring drought of nearly seven minutes on a jumper with 1:06 remaining.

North Dakota State put the finishing touches on the victory at the foul line.  The Bison was 21-for-29 at the stripe on the night to UTEP’s 6-for-11.  More importantly NDSU clobbered the Miners on the boards, 50-30, and scored 13 second-chance points – including 11 in the second half when it got away from UTEP.  UTEP’s Tirus Smith was limited to 17 minutes with foul trouble and finished with six points and four rebounds.  A.J. Jacobson and Tyson Ward spearheaded the Bison’s board work with 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively.  Frazier posted his second double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team.  He averaged 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the two Sun Bowl Tourney games.  Smith received the tournament’s Don Haskins Award.

Thomas added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Miners.  The Miners jumped out to a 19-8 lead.  The Bison came roaring back to pull within four (25-21) at halftime.  An 8-0 run by North Dakota State in the second half turned a 36-32 deficit into a 40-36 lead.  UTEP scored six unanswered to erase a 44-43 deficit and surge into the 49-44 lead, but may have run out of gas at the end while playing its third game in four nights.

The Miners shot 33.3 percent from the field, including 30 percent in the second half, and tallied only five assists.  Smith, who had scored 32 points in the previous two games, picked up his second foul at the 15:57 mark of the first half.  He was assessed his third foul with 17:43 remaining in the second half, and his fourth with 17:08 to play.  Tournament MVP Paul Miller led North Dakota State with 19 points.

SO FAR SO GOOD UNDER COACH J
UTEP is 4-2 under Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson.  The six-game start ties the best by a UTEP rookie head coach.  Don Haskins (1961-62 season), Jason Rabedeaux (1999-00), Doc Sadler (2004-05) and Tim Floyd (2010-11) also led the Miners to four victories in their first six games on the bench.  All four got to 5-2 and Sadler was quickest out of the gate at 14-2 prior to suffering his third defeat.

WINNING FORMULA
UTEP has averaged 81 points per game in its five victories this season, as five players have averaged at least 10 points per game (Omega Harris 18.0 ppg, Keith Frazier 16.0 ppg, Paul Thomas 11.2 ppg, Matt Willms 10.0 ppg, Trey Wade 10.0 ppg).  The Miners have shot 49.3 percent from the field (141-for-286) in their wins and have a positive (+0.8) rebound margin.  They have also forced 82 turnovers (16.4 avg.) while coughing up the basketball only 57 times (11.4 avg.).  Another stat that jumps out at you in the Miners’ five victories is a 12-3 advantage in blocked shots, helping lead to a .375 (105-for-280) defensive field goal percentage.

MINERS SEEKING SCORING
The Miners lost for the first time in five games against North Dakota State (Dec. 22) as they were held to 51 points, their fewest in a game since scoring 44 at LA Tech on Jan. 5, 2017.  The Miners had averaged 76.3 ppg in their four-game win streak, after collecting 59.8 ppg in the previous six outings.  UTEP has been held to 60 points or less in five games.  The Miners are 4-1 when they tally 70 points or more this season, and 1-6 when they score less than 70.  They are also 4-1 when four or more players score in double figures, and 1-6 when three or fewer do so.

A SOUND DEFENSIVE EFFORT
Despite coming up on the short end of the scoreboard to North Dakota State (63-51), the Miners turned in a defensive effort that was more than good enough to win with.  UTEP held the Bison to a .360 field goal percentage and .300 three-point field goal percentage.  North Dakota State’s three-point percentage and field goals (18) either set or matched season lows by a UTEP opponent.

TAKING CARE OF THE BASKETBALL
The Miners have committed eight turnovers or less in three of their last four games.  They turned it over only six times against Washington State (Dec. 9) and Howard (Dec. 21), and eight times versus North Dakota State (Dec. 22).  Those three opponents scored a combined 13 points off turnovers, an average of 4.3 per game.

REBOUNDING STRUGGLES
In the loss to North Dakota State, the Miners had a -20 rebound margin (50-30) for the first time since Feb. 25, 2016 at Old Dominion (51-26).  With 7-1 Matt Willms sidelined for all but one of those games, UTEP has been outboarded in each of the last six contests.  Overall the Miners have lost the battle of the boards in nine of 12 games this season.  The good news is that Willms is nearing his return after breaking his hand against Appalachian State on Nov. 19.

DOUBLE FIGURES OFF THE PINE
Tirus Smith became the sixth Miner to score in double figures off the bench in a game this season when he put 15 points and six rebounds on the board versus Incarnate Word on Dec. 19.  The other Miners who have scored in double figures in a reserve role this season are Keith Frazier (versus Appalachian State), Evan Gilyard (Washington State), Kobe Magee (New Mexico), Isiah Osborne (Louisiana College) and Trey Wade (Louisiana College & Lamar).

100-GAME CLUB
Three members of this year’s team have played in 100 games for the Miners.  Jake Flaggert leads the way with 104 contests, while Omega Harris and Matt Willms have both appeared in 100 games.

HARRIS ON THE UTEP LISTS
Omega Harris ranks 19th on UTEP’s all-time scoring list with 1,192 points.  His next target is John Bohannon, who scored 1,204 points from 2010-14 and sits in 18th place.  Also within striking distance are Omar Thomas (17th, 1,211 points) and Gary Brewster (16th, 1,213 points).  Harris is fourth in three-point field goals (143) and 13th in steals (107).  Harris has logged 3,154 minutes in a Miner uniform, putting him 15th in school annals.

HARRIS’ CAREER HIGH
Omega Harris scored a career-high 28 points versus New Mexico on Dec. 2.  The 28 points were the most by a UTEP player since Lee Moore tallied 30 against FIU in the Conference USA Tournament on March 9, 2016.  Harris matched his career-best with nine field goals made against the Lobos.  Harris picked up the 12th 20-point game of his college career versus UNM.     The Miners are 6-0 in the last six games that Harris has scored 20 points or more (dating back to the 2016-17 season), compared to 2-4 in the first six games that he did so.

WILLMS’ CAREER
Matt Willms has collected 760 points, 448 rebounds and 109 blocks in his UTEP career.  He rates seventh in school history in blocked shots.  He is chasing John Tofi, who sits in sixth place with 110 rejections.  Willms has blocked 11 shots in only five games this season, and tied his career-high with five versus Boise State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.  His career field goal percentage of .574 (300-for-523) would rank third in the UTEP record book behind Cedrick Lang (.581) and Brandon Wolfram (.579).  Willms is nearing his return from a hand injury that has kept him out for half of the season to date.

FOLLOWING FRAZIER
Grad transfer Keith Frazier led the Miners in points (18) and rebounds (10) for the third time in four games, and the fourth time this season, versus North Dakota State last Friday.  What’s more, Frazier became the first UTEP player to lead the team in all five stat categories (points/rebounds/assists/blocks/steals) against NDSU since Lee Moore at Charlotte on Feb. 27, 2016.  Frazier has compiled four 20-point games in 2017-18 and scored his season-high 25 points versus Appalachian State on Nov. 19.  He has been the Miners’ top rebounder in seven of the first 12 contests.  Overall he leads the team with 14.6 ppg and 6.5 rpg.  He is on pace to make 83 three-pointers over 31 games, which would be the third-most in a season in school history.

NEWCOMER PRODUCTION
UTEP has received 56.7 percent of its points (462-of-815), 60.3 percent of its rebounds (228-of-378) and 54.4 percent of its assists (68-of-125) from players in their first year wearing the Orange and Blue uniform.  A newcomer has led the Miners in scoring in nine of 12 games, and a freshman has been UTEP’s top scorer in three contests.

VETS CARRYING THE LOAD
Including grad transfer Keith Frazier, UTEP has received 49.6 percent of its points (404-of-815), 42.9 percent of its rebounds (162-of-378) and 45.6 percent of its assists (57-of-125) from players who are in their final year in the Orange and Blue.  The Miners’ top three scorers are Frazier (14.6 ppg), senior Matt Willms (13.4 ppg) and senior Omega Harris (12.6 ppg).  If that holds up, UTEP’s top three scorers would be seniors for the first time since 2010-11 when the top five scorers (Randy Culpepper, Christian Polk, Jeremy Williams, Julyan Stone, Claude Britten) were in their final year of eligibility.

NINE LINEUPS
UTEP has utilized nine different starting lineups in the first 12 games of the season.  Omega Harris and Paul Thomas are the only players to start every game.  All 11 scholarship players have made starts in 2017-18 after nine players started last season.  UT Martin leads the nation with 10 different starting lineup combinations this season (through games of Dec. 25), while UTEP, Bryant and Florida Gulf Coast have all employed nine different starting lineups to tie for second.

CHARGE CLUB
While Jake Flaggert has traditionally been known as the Miners’ resident “charge drawer,” a freshman duo has gotten into the act in 2017-18.  Evan Gilyard and Tirus Smith lead the squad with seven charges drawn each.  Together they have accounted for 73.7 percent (14-of-19) of the Miners’ charges drawn this season.

JAKE TAKES CHARGE
Jake Flaggert led Conference USA in charges drawn in both 2015-16 (18) and 2016-17 (33).  He has taken five charges in limited action this season, giving him 62 in his career.

A NEAR-RECORD
By outscoring Louisiana College 32-0 to start the game in the season opener, UTEP came within two points of tying an NCAA record.  On Nov. 29, 1998, Seton Hall led Kean 34-0 to set the standard.

HITTING THE CENTURY MARK
The Miners scored 100 points in a season opener for only the third time against Louisiana College.  UTEP scored 109 points versus Fort Lewis and UT-Permian Basin during the 1988-89 and 2003-04 seasons, respectively.  The Miners scored 100 points for the 31st time in school history.

THE 2017-18 MINERS
UTEP returns four starters and five letterwinners from last year’s squad that started 2-13 before winning 13 of its final 17 games and tying for third place in Conference USA (12-6 mark).  UTEP welcomes back five of its top six scorers from the 2016-17 season headlined by senior guard Omega Harris (17.0 ppg last season) and senior center Matt Willms (11.4 ppg).  The only starter lost is Dominic Artis, who last year became the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounds (207), assists (187) and steals (60).  Artis, a second team All-Conference USA player, collected 15.0 ppg.  The Miners have six scholarship newcomers including two players (Isiah Osborne and Trey Wade) who sat out last season.  Also new to the fold are freshmen Evan Gilyard, Kobe Magee and Tirus Smith and graduate transfer Keith Frazier.

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

THE GRADUATES
Four Miners have early earned their degrees.  Jake Flaggert received his Marketing degree in May of 2017 and is pursuing his Master’s in Business Management.  Keith Frazier graduated from North Texas with a degree in Integrative Studies and is working on his Master’s in Leadership Studies.  Matt Willms received his Communication degree in May of 2016 and is pursuing his Master’s in Organizational & Corporate Communication.   Trey Touchet received his degree in Kinesiology on Dec. 16 and is beginning work on his Master’s in Leadership Studies.

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

1966 Championship Team Captain Orsten Artis Passes Away

Orsten Artis, team captain on Texas Western’s famed 1966 national championship team, passed away at his home in Merrillville, Indiana on Tuesday.  He was 74 years old.

The Miners have lost both captains from the 28-1 squad that won the only Division I men’s basketball national championship in the state of Texas.  Harry Flournoy passed away on Nov. 26, 2016.

Artis was Texas Western’s third-leading scorer during the 1965-66 season, averaging 12.6 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field and 86.3 percent from the line.  

The 6-1 guard lettered for the Miners for three seasons (1963-66), averaging 10.5 ppg as a sophomore and 11.2 ppg as a junior.  He helped Texas Western to a 69-13 record and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances (1964, 1966).  Artis scored 22 points against Utah in the 1966 national semifinals, and collected 15 points and eight rebounds in the historic title game victory over Kentucky. 

Artis scored in double figures in each of the Miners’ five NCAA Tournament games in 1966.

Artis is enshrined in both the UTEP Athletics and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.  In 2007, the national champs were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He retired after a long career as a detective with the Gary, Ind. police department.

Artis is preceded in death by his wife, Fredinea.  He has a son, Rex.

Funeral and memorial service arrangements are forthcoming.

NDSU Bison Best Miners 63-51, Take Don Haskins Invitational Title

North Dakota State outscored UTEP 19-2 over the final 7:35 en route to a 63-51 victory in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational championship game on Friday at the Haskins Center.

The Miners (5-7), who had their four-game win streak snapped, led 49-44 after Keith Frazier hit a jumper with 7:53 to go.  After that, North Dakota State (7-6) scored 14 unanswered points before Frazier ended the scoring drought of nearly seven minutes on a jumper with 1:06 remaining.

North Dakota State put the finishing touches on the victory at the foul line.  The Bison was 21-for-29 at the stripe on the night to UTEP’s 6-for-11.  More importantly NDSU clobbered the Miners on the boards, 50-30, and scored 13 second-chance points – including 11 in the second half when it got away from UTEP.

“It’s easy to see, and I just told the team, 50-30 on the glass.  You can’t win,” UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson said.  “We just got crushed.  I thought we defended them pretty good throughout the shot and we just couldn’t go clean the glass.  They shot 36 percent for the game.  That’s something we can live with.  And only eight turnovers.  It wasn’t all bad.  But that’s brutal.  We can’t rebound the ball.  Obviously getting Matt [Willms] back will help us, when that happens.  And Tirus [Smith] being in foul trouble really hurt us on the glass.  So we had four guards in there with Paul [Thomas].  But those guys are good.  They defend and they run good stuff and they’re hard to defend and we had a hard time getting good shots.”

Smith was limited to 17 minutes with foul trouble and finished with six points and four rebounds.  A.J. Jacobson and Tyson Ward spearheaded the Bison’s board work with 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively.

UTEP’s Keith Frazier posted his second double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team.  He averaged 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the two Sun Bowl Tourney games.  Smith received the tournament’s Don Haskins Award.

Paul Thomas added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Miners on Friday.

Up until the stretch run it was an entertaining basketball game.  The Miners jumped out to a 19-8 lead.  The Bison came roaring back to pull within four (25-21) at halftime.  An 8-0 run by North Dakota State in the second half turned a 36-32 deficit into a 40-36 lead.

UTEP scored six unanswered to erase a 44-43 deficit and surge into the 49-44 lead, but may have run out of gas at the end while playing its third game in four nights.

“They just started driving,” Johnson said of the game-ending run.  “They really kind of abandoned their offense and just started putting their head down and driving it, and we started fouling.  And so they shoot 29 free throws to our 11.  They made 21 and we made six.  So there’s 15 points in addition to the rebounding, and that’s a big part of the game.”

The Miners shot 33.3 percent from the field, including 30 percent in the second half, and tallied only five assists.

“Ball’s not moving enough,” Johnson said.

Smith, who had scored 32 points in the previous two games, picked up his second foul at the 15:57 mark of the first half.  He was assessed his third foul with 17:43 remaining in the second half, and his fourth with 17:08 to play.

“We tried to play him with three and he picked up his fourth,” Johnson said.  “There was some confusion on did he have three or did he have four.  Well, he had four.  And so we took him out with four and he had to sit for a long period of time.  And with Paul in the game and Jake [Flaggert], we’re really thin and frail.  And they’ve got good players.  They shoot the ball very well, they go rebound it very, very well, and they have a well executed offense.  It’s hard to guard the stuff they run.  And I thought we did an excellent job man-to-man wise for about 36 minutes.  I thought we did.  They ended up with 63 [points], but the late free throws they knocked down, so you’re in the 50’s probably.  Something you can live with.  So our issue really wasn’t necessarily guarding them, it was rebounding and our inability to go score and I give them credit.  They just flat-out defended us very, very well, probably the best we have been guarded all year.”

Tournament MVP Paul Miller led North Dakota State with 19 points.

The Miners will take a short holiday break before getting an early start to the Conference USA schedule by hosting North Texas on Thursday (Dec. 28) and Rice on Saturday (Dec. 30) next week.

Both games will tip at 7 p.m.  Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.

Photos Gallery by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post

UTEP Stifles Samford 46-33, Advances To Tulane Classic Championship

NEW ORLEANS, La.- UTEP turned in its best defensive effort of the year in an impressive 46-33 victory against Samford in its opening game inside historic Fogelman Arena Thursday evening.

The Miners (7-3) advance to challenge host Tulane (7-5) in the championship contest of the classic at 2 p.m. MST/3 p.m. CST Friday while the Bulldogs (6-7) will play Troy in the consolation tilt after having their three-game winning streak snapped.

UTEP set season bests for fewest points allowed (33) and defensive field-goal percentage (20.8 percent). That defensive field-goal percentage ranks as the sixth best in program history. The Miners never trailed in the contest, and at one point led by as many as 26 (44-18), which is their biggest advantage of the campaign.

UTEP was up 19-9 at the break. It marked the first time that the Miners held an opponent to fewer than 10 points in a half since keeping NM State to eight on Nov. 29, 2011. The Orange and Blue ended any aspirations of a comeback by Samford after they started the second half on a 10-0 run.

Najala Howell tallied 12 points to go along with eight rebounds to lead the way for the Miners. Roeshanda Patterson (eight points, career-high four rebounds), Zuzanna Puc (eight points, four rebounds), Tamara Seda (seven points, eight boards) and Jordan Alexander (seven points, seven rebounds, four charges) also got after it for the Orange and Blue.

The Miners finished at 34.0 percent (16-47) from the floor, aided by a sizzling 61.5 percent (8-13) during the third quarter. UTEP also won the rebounding battle (49-30) for the 10th time in as many tilts this season.

Hannah Nichols led Samford with a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds).

“Tonight Samford just had a poor shooting performance for them but from our point of view we had to make them shoot perimeter shots,” UTEP head coach Kevin Baker said. “We wanted to make sure the first four minutes of the third quarter was ours. I was proud of us for playing better in the third. It was the biggest thing that our team did today in this particular game.”

It was a sluggish start offensively for both teams, with the game tied at two after six minutes of action. The Miners broke the scoreless drought of more than three minutes with a bullish post move by Seda. Patterson was then fouled on a drive to the hoop and she converted both tosses. Alexander made it six straight points with an offensive rebound and putback before Seda ended the eventual 7-0 surge by splitting a pair of free throws. The advantage was five (9-4) at the quarter break, with Samford going more than eight minutes without a field goal.

The Bulldogs received back-to-back baskets to trim UTEP’s lead to one (9-8) with 6:30 left in the half. The Orange and Blue had an answer, which came in the form of an 8-0 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes. Katarina Zec started it with two tosses at the charity stripe before Puc scored on a driving lay-up. Patterson then came up with a steal and a coast-to-coast score, which was followed by a pretty post move by Puc to cap the sequence. The Bulldogs halted the sequence with a free throw from Nichols but Patterson sunk a pull-up jumper to send the Miners into the locker room armed with a double-digit advantage (19-9).

UTEP kept the momentum to start the third quarter, ripping off 10 consecutive points to jump out to a 20-point advantage (29-9) with 6:52 to play in the frame. Howell was instrumental in the stretch by scoring six of the 10 points, including a run-closing old-fashioned 3-point play. Samford stopped the surge with a triple by Cassidy Williams. UTEP struck back with back-to-back baskets from Puc, with Patterson setting her up both times off the drive. The two teams traded scores over the next few minutes before the Miners accounted for the final five points of the frame to lead by 24 (42-18) through three quarters of action.

After the Miners scored the first two points of the frame on two Howell free throws, Samford put together a 13-2 run over the next eight minutes to whittle the deficit down to 15 (46-31). It was far too little too late, though, with the Miners closing out the wire-to-wire victory with a comfortable margin.

UTEP’s game at Tulane will broadcast locally in El Paso on 600 ESPN El Paso.

Game Book In PDF Format

Like UTEP Women’s Basketball On Facebook
Follow The Miners On Twitter
Follow The Miners On Instagram
Follow Coach Baker On Twitter

 

Special to the Herald-Post – Raise the Pick: Paul Thomas

Raise the Pick: This is the third article in a series about UTEP student-athletes who share their unique stories and how athletic scholarships have made a difference in their lives. Each of these students reflects on the value of their UTEP experiences and the opportunities they create for the future.

Some of life’s most important lessons aren’t learned in a classroom. It was during a preseason basketball game in Costa Rica in August that UTEP men’s basketball player Paul Thomas was reminded to appreciate what he has.

“I’ve never experienced a country like that,” Thomas said. “We actually got a chance to go to an orphanage that had several hundred kids and … give them T-shirts, talk to them, play games with them, take a tour and see how they live. I had never seen anything like that. It was really humbling … They were smiling, playing with us, asking to play hide and go seek and race them. It will definitely be something I remember for the rest of my life, seeing kids like that. It makes you count your blessings.”

Thomas, a small forward, is in his junior season with the Miners. Growing up in the Houston area, he was always the tallest kid in his family, in his class, and on any team he played for. He began playing sports at 5 years old, starting with basketball.

“I did not always like basketball,” Thomas said. “It was kind of forced upon me at a young age because being the taller kid, everyone expected me to play basketball. But I did not develop a love for the game probably until about the seventh or eighth grade. That’s when I chose basketball over baseball. I used to love baseball, but in seventh or eighth grade I hit about 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, and at that moment I knew I had to make a decision and I chose basketball.”

That choice led him to UTEP and a Division I athletic scholarship.

“Paul is an excellent athlete who plays above the rim and can really run,” former UTEP head coach Tim Floyd said when Thomas signed to play with UTEP. “He has a strong skill level to where he can even play out on the perimeter. He is an excellent passer and ball handler who really sees the floor.”

“He is a tremendous person overall,” said James Bailey, who coached Thomas at Summer Creek High School in Houston. “He is a great kid with great grades. He’s everything a coach would want in a kid. He has a complete skill set on the floor. He can handle the ball, he can shoot and he can drive. He’s a really good athlete with a good basketball IQ who, with development, is going to play for money at some point in his career.”

The scholarship has meant a free education for Thomas, for which he is grateful.

“Without an athletic scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to attend college,” Thomas said. “It was either college or the military. I didn’t know I was going to attain a scholarship until about 10th or 11th grade when I started getting interest from colleges. Until then, I didn’t really have any sort of plan. When I started getting offers, it kind of made me get real about life and start thinking about what I wanted to do.”

Thomas is majoring in marketing and hopes to use his degree to work in marketing for a sports team.

“I’m just interested in why people make the decisions they make when it comes to buying or spending their time or money on something,” Thomas said.

It’s not all schoolwork and basketball for Thomas. He also likes to swim in lakes and oceans. On one memorable occasion while snorkeling in Cancun, he encountered a giant sea turtle.

“It startled me and rubbed up against me,” Thomas recalled. “I started choking up water, came up and was like, ‘What was that?’”

That’s when he saw the turtle the size of his torso swimming off.

As Thomas continues his junior year on the court and in the classroom, he is quick to thank donors and fans for helping to make his dreams come true.

“I’m so thankful for everything they do for us,” Thomas said. “These facilities are top notch … The fan support is amazing. A lot of people don’t know about UTEP and El Paso in general. They just have no clue how great it is.”

Visit minerathleticclub.com to learn more about the Raise the Pick campaign.

Author:  Leonard Martinez – UTEP Communications

Three-In-A-Row: Miners Beat UIW 72-66

With only eight scholarship players available due to injuries and illness, UTEP battled back to upend Incarnate Word for its third consecutive victory, 72-66, on Tuesday at the Haskins Center.

The Miners (4-6) began a stretch of three games in four nights with a much-needed win.  UTEP will take part in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Thursday and Friday, hosting Howard on Thursday at 7 p.m. before facing either North Dakota State or UNC Wilmington on Friday at a time to be determined.

UTEP was minus Isiah Osborne (strep throat) and Matt Willms, who is recovering from a broken hand, on Tuesday as well as Trey Wade, who was out of town with family following the passing of his grandmother.

The Miners were also coming off a 10-day break between games, and the rust showed throughout.  But UTEP finally got going after UIW (5-4) took a six-point lead, 49-43, midway through the second half.

What followed was a 10-1 run, which ended with UTEP back in front 53-50.  The Miners wouldn’t trail again, although UIW closed to within a point (56-55) on a three-pointer by Simi Socks with 5:57 remaining.  UTEP responded with a 11-2 run, upping the ante to 67-57 with about two minutes left.

The Miners were able to close it out despite a subpar night at the free throw line (12-for-23, 52.2 percent).

UTEP Interim Head Coach Phil Johnson was ejected after picking up his second technical foul with 15:32 remaining in the second half, and Bobby Braswell coached the team the rest of the way.

“I really wanted to send a message to the team.  Not through a T, just with some energy,” Johnson said.  “The rust showed after 10 days off.  We’re a better basketball team than we showed.  But at the end of the day we pulled it out.  I’m really pleased with Tirus Smith, a freshman that was able to post up and score 15 points.  It’s really nice to see four guys in double figures.  So I was really happy with that.  We had six turnovers in our last game.  Six.  And 18 tonight.  And that’s a result of really not playing, I think, and just practicing.  And believe me, we practiced really hard.  But we were a little bit rusty.  We’ll clean that up and we’ve got to get some things better.”

Smith gave the Miners a major boost inside, making 7-of-11 shots while pulling down six rebounds.  Paul Thomas led UTEP with 16 points, while Omega Harris had 15 and Kobe Magee scored all 12 of his points in the second half.  Harris moved up another notch on the Miners’ all-time scoring list; he now ranks 22nd with 1,168 points after passing William Smith.

Socks led the Cardinals with 21 points.  UIW outrebounded UTEP 33-30, although the Miners won the battle of the boards (18-16) after halftime.

The Miners shot 61.5 percent in the second half, when they outscored UIW 44-38.  It was a sloppy game on both sides, as UTEP finished with 18 turnovers to the Cardinals’ 25.  The Miners scored 32 points off turnovers, and UIW scored 22.

Photos by Andres Acosta, El Paso Herald-Post Chief Photographer

Mountains 728
john overall 728×90
PBP_728
Utep Football Generic 728
ENTERPRISE 728
EMERGENCE MINDFUL 728.90
Elizabeth 728
Covid-19 Fund 728
Emergence June 11 – Sep 11, 2020 728
TRLA_728
Spring Training 728
Get Shift Done 728