The UTEP basketball team will commence Conference USA action at FIU on Thursday, Jan. 2. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. MT/10 a.m. ET at Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami, Florida
The Miners and Panthers each scratched out 9-4 nonconference marks. FIU recently had a six-game winning streak snapped at Minnesota, falling 89-62, on Dec. 28. The Panthers have also started 5-0 at home this season.
With league action starting, every program restarts its record to 0-0. But the Miners will have a tough challenge traveling to the Atlantic to begin their conference slate.
“Our guys are really excited about it,” second-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We’ve already been on the road and have played at some difficult places this year. FIU is off to a great start and we know it’s going to be a high possession game and have to value taking care of the basketball, we have to do a good job at finishing, and we have to do a good job defensively. But our guys are excited and they like playing on the road. It’s a confident group that has gained valuable experience already.”
UTEP is coming off its trip across the Pacific as it competed at the Diamond Head Classic. The Miners opened the holiday tournament with a 67-63 loss to host Hawai’i, rebounded to edge Ball State, 71-70, (UTEP’s first win away from the Haskins Center in over a year) while coming up short against Boise State, 72-67, on Christmas Day.
Against FIU, the Miners have dominated the all-time series, 11-1, after their 85-78 victory last season in El Paso. UTEP will look to extend its undefeated record (6-0) against FIU in Miami Thursday afternoon, while the Miners are 9-1 versus the Panthers since FIU joined C-USA.
UTEP last played in Miami on Feb. 25, 2017, as it came out on top 90-76.
Bryson Williams leads the Miners and ranks second in C-USA in points per game (19.3). Williams averaged 18.3 points per game in Hawai’i, as one of his performances was a 33-point putout against the Rainbow Warriors. Williams was the first Miner to register multiple 30-point games during a single season since Randy Culpepper did so during the 2010-11 campaign.
The Miners’ second-leading scorer is Souley Boum (11.3 ppg), while Daryl Edwards (9.8 ppg) ranks third. Edwards recently scored all 14 of his points during the second half against the Broncos to lead the squad.
A pair of Miners came off the bench the last two games as Kaden Archie and Anthony Tarke showed promise heading into the league play. Archie is coming off back-to-back 11-point efforts. He dished out four assists, grabbed seven boards, and added a block and two steals. Tarke led the way with 14 rebounds (7.0 rpg) and four steals. He also recorded three assists, a blocked shot and scored 11 points.
FIU is led by one of the premier big men in the nation, Osasumwen Osaghae. The 6-9, 250-pound forward leads the nation in blocked shots (60) and blocked shots per game (4.6). The senior paces the squad in rebounds per game (8.3), while ranking second in points per game (13.3).
Osaghae’s 72.5 field-goal percentage (66-91) also ranks second in the nation and first in C-USA. Devon Andrews paces the Panthers at 16.5 points per game.
FIU leads C-USA in assists per game (17.1), while ranking 19th nationally. Its 7.6 blocked shot per game and total blocks (99) lead the nation, while its 10.5 steals per game ranks first in the league and fifth in the nation.
The fast-paced Panthers lead C-USA in multiple departments – scoring offense (82.4), three-point field goal defense (25.9), three-point field goals per game (9.8), three-point field goals made (127), total steals (136) and turnovers forced per game (18.3).
“The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher will call the action on 600 ESPN El Paso, while the Miners and Panthers will be streamed on ESPN+.