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The Battle of I-10 ,NMSU at UTEP , Don Haskins Center

H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP’s Homestand Continues Saturday vs Florida Atlantic

The UTEP Miners tasted victory for the first time in several weeks on Thursday night, as Dominic Artis’ buzzer-beater propelled them to an 88-87, double overtime victory over FIU.

“The beautiful thing about yesterday was watching our players react after Dominic made the shot and seeing them run out there and it was like they just released everything that had pent up for a long time,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.

Now the question becomes, can the Miners do it again?  On Saturday they’ll try to post consecutive victories for the first time this season against Florida Atlantic.  Tip-off is at 7 p.m., and fans are asked to wear blue as the team will sport its blue uniforms at home for the first time.

The Miners climbed to 3-13 with Thursday’s victory, but may be feeling like they’re 13-3 after finally putting a notch in the win column.

“So much is made of players having fun,” Floyd said.  “I have always maintained that the only way players can really have fun is to win.  I think the win really was a positive thing for our team.  It was a really good thing.  We still make mistakes, we’re still not whole, we’re still not perfect by any means.  But it’s a nice place to start.”

The Miners have actually been playing better for a while now.  They have held four of their last seven opponents to field goal percentages under 40, and they have outrebounded three straight Conference USA foes.

“The zone has helped us,” Floyd said.  “For some reason, we are rebounding better.  Dominic has had 13 and nine boards the last two games.  Paul Thomas went back and had 11 boards last night.  I thought he played his best game as a Miner.  The last game we won, we had a complimentary scorer from another spot.  It was Jake Flaggert, and I think he had 14 points in the ballgame against Western Michigan.  Last night Trey Touchet had 11 [points] and we got some points out of Paul Thomas.  They made up for some mistakes that we’re still making on the offensive end. It seems like in the halfcourt we really struggle either off the dribble making decisions or sometimes not finishing plays at the rim.  It’s who we are right now, and we’re going to try to taste this thing and see if we can parlay it into another win.”

Florida Atlantic is 5-10 overall, 1-3 in C-USA and 1-4 on the road, but all you need to look at is a 79-77 overtime victory at Ohio State on Dec. 6 to know that they’re capable.

The Owls have eight players averaging between six and 11 points and one of the league’s premier big men in junior center Ronald Delph.  He is third in C-USA in field goal percentage (.582), seventh in blocks (1.3 bpg) and eighth in rebounding (7.7 rpg).

Florida Atlantic historically has played better on the road than at home.  Miner fans remember Marquan Botley banking in a three-pointer at the buzzer to end UTEP’s eight-game C-USA winning streak on Feb. 13, 2014 in the Haskins Center.

Floyd applauded the crowd in Thursday’s game and is hoping for a similar spirited turnout this weekend.

“I liked the atmosphere in our building,” he said.  “I thought it was incredible for our fans to stick around and be engaged and enjoy the college basketball experience last night.  They were into it.  I thought it helped our players.  I don’t think we win that game on the road given our vulnerability right now.  So a lot of positive things.”

GAME NOTES

Fresh off an exciting 88-87, double overtime win over FIU that snapped a 12-game losing streak, UTEP (3-13, 1-3 C-USA) aims to post consecutive wins for the first time this season when Florida Atlantic (5-10, 1-3 C-USA) comes to town on Saturday.

The Miners haven’t put together back-to-back victories since March of 2016 and are 73-17 in C-USA home games.

UTEP has won 17 of its last 18 league home games dating back to the 2014-15 season.    The Miners have been particularly good in C-USA home games in the month of January, posting a 32-6 record with wins in 21 of their last 24 outings.

UTEP is 44-12 in C-USA home games under coach Tim Floyd.  Fans are encouraged to wear blue for Saturday’s game.  The Miners will wear their blue uniforms at home for the first time this season.

ABOUT FLORIDA ATLANTIC

–    The Owls are 1-4 on the road, but have an impressive 79-77, overtime victory at Ohio State (Dec. 6) under their belt.
–    Florida Atlantic lost at Hawaii (64-63), UT Martin (82-81), Miami (76-56) and UTSA (68-63) in its league road opener on Thursday.
–    The Owls are averaging 70.7 points as a team and have eight players averaging between six and 11 points.
–    Senior guard Adonis Filer leads the way, contributing 10.5 ppg, followed by sophomore guard Nick Rutherford (10.0 ppg), junior center Ronald Delph (9.7 ppg), sophomore guard Justin Massey (9.6 ppg), freshman forward Jailyn Ingram (8.6 ppg) and junior guard Gerdarius Troutman (7.9 ppg).   –    Delph is third in C-USA in field goal percentage (.582), seventh in blocks (1.3 bpg) and eighth in rebounding (7.7 rpg).
–    The Owls led by as many as 11 points in the first half of Thursday’s loss at UTSA.  The Roadrunners outscored Florida Atlantic 40-30 in the second half and scored 16 points off 12 turnovers by the Owls.  Troutman scored a team-high 16 points in 16 minutes off the bench for FAU, making five three pointers.

SERIES HISTORY

–     UTEP leads the Florida Atlantic series 3-1, including a clean sweep during the 2015-16 season.  The Miners beat the Owls in El Paso (71-56) and Boca Raton (89-82).
–     The Miners are 1-1 versus the Owls in El Paso.  Florida Atlantic snapped UTEP’s eight-game C-USA win streak on Feb. 13, 2014, when Marquan Botley banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 71-69 win.

THE LAST MEETING

–    Lee Moore scored 17 points to lead a season-high six UTEP players in double figures as the Miners held off a late Florida Atlantic rally and beat the Owls, 89-82 on Feb. 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Fla.
–    Dominic Artis had a near triple-double for the Miners with 13 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.  Omega Harris and Earvin Morris scored 14 points apiece, Hooper Vint had 13 and Terry Winn had 11.
–    The Miners committed 13 turnovers to the Owls’ 16 and outscored FAU 27-13 in points off turnovers.  UTEP outrebounded FAU 38-31 behind Artis and Winn, who snared eight boards. And the Miners finished 20-for-27 at the charity stripe, while the Owls were 14-for-17.
–    After scoring the first 15 points in the initial matchup between the teams on Jan. 21, the Miners bolted to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes.  Morris hit two three-pointers right out of the gate and scored 14 points (four triples) in the first half before exiting with foul trouble.  Morris did his first-half damage in only nine minutes.
–    Florida Atlantic cut the deficit to two (14-12) on a three-pointer by Jeantal Cylla but the Miners answered with a 10-1 run to go up 24-13.  Vint came off the bench to score six points during that stretch.
–    UTEP enjoyed three separate 17-point leads in the first half – the last at 47-30 on a Harris layup with 2:24 on the clock.
–    Florida Atlantic scored the last four points of the first half and the first three of the second half to pull within 10 (47-37).  The Miners scored the next five points to push it to 15 (52-37).
–    UTEP took its biggest lead of the game at 75-57 on a layup by Moore with 9:29 remaining.  Moore scored seven consecutive points for the Miners from the 10:08 mark of the second half to 8:22.
–    UTEP led 85-73 with four minutes remaining, but the Owls had one last run in them.  They scored nine consecutive points – including seven from Solomon Poole – to cut the lead to three (85-82) with 2:32 to play.
–    Florida Atlantic had two opportunities to draw closer but Marquan Botley missed a three-pointer and Poole turned it over on the next possession.  Trey Touchet made two free throws with 11 seconds remaining and, after Botley missed a layup, Harris made two foul shots to account for the final score.
–    Adonis Filer led FAU with 18 points.  Cylla and Botley scored 16 and 15 respectively.
–    The Miners shot 50 percent (51.6) and made 5-of-10 three-point attempts.

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