UTEP (5-13, 2-4 C-USA) opens up a short homestand by playing host to C-USA preseason favorite and first-place (three-way tie) Western Kentucky (14-5, 6-1 C-USA) at 7:05 p.m. MST Thursday.
There will be free admission to the game as part of the annual “Pack The House” promotion, with fans encouraged to visit Albertsons or GECU to pick up their vouchers to get in free.
Steve Kaplowitz (play-by-play) and Traci Miller (color commentary) will have the call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio. Fans may also stay up-to-date by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Lady Toppers (@LadyTopperHoops) on Twitter.
The game will be streamed live on the beIN Sports app (Duke Keith-play-by-play and Wayne Thornton-color), and a TV tape-delay airing will take place after men’s hoops programming that evening.
– UTEP, which is in the midst of playing seven of nine on the road, is home for the first time since Jan. 7.
– WKU has won four straight and nine of 10, including a 73-57 dispatching of Marshall (1/21) last time out.
– The Miners are 4-5 at home, including 1-2 in C-USA. WKU is 3-2 on the road, including 1-1 mark in C-USA.
– UTEP’s two-game homestand concludes vs. Marshall (2 p.m. MST Saturday).
– Following the mini homestand the Miners will play four straight league road games for the first time since 2005-06 (initial year in C-USA). Upon conclusion of that, UTEP will have had seven of nine away from home.
– In six league games UTEP is shooting 41.1 percent (159-387), compared to 39.7 percent (153-385) by its opponents, while both are 30.6 (30-98) on triples, but UTEP’s scoring margin is -4.5 (72.0-76.5). A big difference has been free throws. Foes have hit 75.0 percent (123-164) to UTEP’s 67.7 percent ( 84-124), with opponents nearly having as many makes (123) at the line as UTEP does total attempts (124).
THIS AND THAT ON CONFERENCE USA
– Teams play all 13 members at least once and face five teams in home-and-home for 18-game C-USA slate.
– The top 12 teams (14 in C-USA) will qualify for the single-elimination tournament (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.-UAB) with the top four teams as seeded by regular season standings receiving a bye. The winner will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
– Charlotte (6-1), Middle Tennessee (6-1) and WKU (6-1) share first place in the league with UTSA (5-1) 1/2 game back. LA Tech (4-3) is the only other team with a winning league mark. FAU (0-7) is only one with a league win.
INSIDE THE SERIES
– UTEP leads the series, 2-1, but WKU is 1-0 in El Paso. #24 WKU bested UTEP, 80-74, (1/22/15).
– The Miners returned the favor with an 85-78 win in Bowling Green, Ky., on Feb. 6, 2016.
– The only other meeting between the schools was when #7-seed UTEP downed #10-seed WKU, 92-60, on March 22, 2008, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
GETTING TO KNOW WESTERN KENTUCKY
Overall: 14-5 Home: 10-1 Road 3-2 Neutral 1-2 | C-USA: 6-1 Home: 5-0 Road 1-1
– The Lady Toppers returned four starters and eight letter winners overall from last year’s team (27-7, 15-3) that advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2016 WNIT.
– After a 3-3 start to the year, WKU has gone 11-2 to improve to 14-5 overall. The surge has the Lady Toppers well on their way to their fifth consecutive 20+ win season.
– Voted the preseason C-USA favorite, WKU has lived up to the billing thus far with a 6-1 mark in league play to stand in a three-way tie for first place. Five of its seven C-USA games have been at home.
– WKU leads C-USA and is top-40 nationally for fewest turnovers/game (12.4-10th), free-thr0w percentage (77.8-13th), scoring margin (+14.7-26th), scoring offense (75.9-26th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.14-40th)
– Also upper echelon of league for scoring defensive (61.2-second), fewest fouls/game (15.6-second), turnover margin (+5.3-27th), steals/game (10.2-third), field-goal percentage (43.3-fourth), blocks/game (3.1-sixth), three-point FG defense (31.3-seventh) and rebounds/game (38.5-seventh).
– Reigning C-USA Player and Defensive Player of the Year leads the charge for WKU. Noble paces the team and is among the league/national rankings for points/game (14.9-ninth/197th), assists/game (4.7-sixth/77th) and steals/game (2.7-fourth-37th). Noble is the lone D1 player in the nation to have at least 14.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg and 2.5 spg.
– Tashia Brown (14.0 ppg) and Ivy Brown (13.7 ppg) join Noble in double figures for scoring. Ivy Brown is the squad’s top rebounder (8.6-fourth/76th).
– Storied history with 18 NCAA Tournament appearances and 11 WNIT bids while also finishing in the final Associated Press Top-25 poll on nine occasions.
– Notable university alumni include Romeo Crennel (former head coach of the Cleveland Browns & KC Chiefs), the late Duncan Hines (pioneer of restaurant ratings for travelers), the late Cordell Hull (Secretary of State under FDR, Nobel Peace Prize winner),
LAST MEETING WITH WKU (UTEP 85, at WKU 78 (2/7/16)
– Five different Miners reached double figures in scoring and UTEP turned up the defensive pressure late to emerge with an 85-78 win at Western Kentucky on Feb. 6.
– The Miners rallied from 13 points down (22-9), marking the third-largest come-from-behind road victory in program history.
– UTEP took sole possession of first place in C-USA while also snapping WKU’s 15-game home winning streak. It was the first home loss for the Lady Toppers since Jan. 31, 2015.
– Starr Breedlove (21 points, seven assists, career-high six steals) led the way but she had plenty of help. Cameasha Turner tallied 17 points and five boards while Lulu McKinney came off the bench to contribute 14 points, aided by making 4-6 from three-point range. McKinney also dished out six assists. Tamara Seda provided a big presence inside by setting career highs in rebounds (11) and blocked shots (three) while adding four rebounds while Sparkle Taylor pitched in 10 points as well.
– UTEP shot 52.4 percent (33-63) from the floor, and compiled 18 assists while only making 10 turnovers.
– WKU was led by 29 points from Tashia Brown, with Kendall Noble (12 points) and Ivy Brown (12 points) also hitting double figures.
– The Lady Toppers nailed 54.5 (30-55) percent from the floor and won the boards (32-28) but they had issues with the Miners’ pressure at key junctures.
– WKU committed 15 turnovers, which led to 23 UTEP points. The Miners also had big advantage in second-chance points (15-6) and bench scoring (37-17).