UTEP will open the month of December with a contest against Northwestern State in the Don Haskins Center, with tip-off set for 7 p.m.
The Miners (2-4) are coming off a hard-fought matchup against rival NM State on Nov. 28, while the Division I Demons (2-5) fell to Louisiana Monroe, 80-52, on Nov. 27.
“Respect every opponent and it’s about us trying to get better right now,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry said. “We know we have to come out and compete at a very high level every night no matter who you’re playing. You saw it at the beginning of the year. It doesn’t matter what level you play, whether it’s Division II, you got to be ready to play for 40 minutes. We’re excited about another opportunity and hopefully our guys will compete at a high level. We’re also excited for the opportunity to play at home.”
UTEP last played Northwestern State on Dec. 3, 2016 in El Paso. The Demons defeated the Miners, 79-67. The Miners hold a 4-2 series advantage against the Demons as the last victory came on Dec. 19, 2013, an 84-74 triumph.
The Miners won’t take any moral victories, but after the Aggies took an 11-point lead, the Orange and Blue battled back to make it a two-point contest against a deep NM State squad on Wednesday. The Miners overcame a 13-0 run during the second half and tried to capitalize on every possession to cut the lead.
“We try to build on every possession,” Terry said. “This time of year, you’re trying to build your offense and you’re trying to build your defense. Every possession matters as you go into December.”
UTEP, after starting the season with basically two bench players, has since gained freshman Nigel Hawkins, who sat out the first two games due to injury, and Fresno State transfer Ountae Campbell. Campbell, a redshirt junior who was announced as an eligible player prior to the Battle of I-10, nailed a three-point shot and drew a charge in 15 minutes of action against the Aggies.
UTEP was led by Conference USA’s third-leading scorer (20.3 ppg), Evan Gilyard. The super sophomore led the Miners with 18 points, his fifth time pacing the team in scoring this season. Gilyard came up big, again, on the boards, grabbing nine rebounds (tied for team lead) against a long and athletic NM State squad.
The nine rebounds were the second-most during his career and he ranks second on the squad at 5.2 rebounds per contest. Efe Odigie scored 12 points against the Aggies, his sixth consecutive double-digit game, and ranks second in C-USA in rebounding (9.2 rpg). Freshman Kaosi Ezeagu came off the bench versus NMSU and played a season-high 19 minutes while supplying outstanding defense.
Ezeagu ripped down nine rebounds, tying for the team high, while he threw down a thunderous dunk during UTEP’s comeback that electrified the Haskins Center. Ezeagu chipped in with four points and tallied a steal. Freshmen Hawkins and Jordan Lathon combined for 14 points, while Lathon snagged a career-high three steals.
Kobe Magee scored two points and registered three rebounds, while Paul Thomas scored five points and tied Gilyard with three assists against the Aggies.
Overall UTEP has shot well from downtown, ranking second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.374). Gilyard leads the league, hitting over 48 percent of his three-point buckets (18-for-37) and ranks fourth in three-point field goals per game (3.0). Hawkins ranks 15th in free-throw percentage (.750) and 19th in steals per game (1.5).
The Demons opened the season with a 102-62 victory over Centenary on Nov. 6, but dropped their next four contests before beating Alabama A&M, 70-66 in overtime on Nov. 23. Senior 6-8 forward/center Ishmael Lane leads NSU in scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg), while 6-4 senior guard DeAndre Love is averaging 10.3 points per game. Sophomore guard C.J. Jones leads the team with 15 assists on the year.
The Demons are averaging 66.9 points per game and allowing over 77 points per contest. As a team, NSU is shooting over 38 percent and giving up over 44 percent. Northwestern State is averaging 37.6 rebounds per contest, but giving up over 42 per game.
Single-game tickets, starting at $8, are available by calling (915) 747-5234. Fans can listen live on KOFX 92.3 with “The Voice of the Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen. The Spanish broadcast can be heard on ESPN Deportes 1650AM with Omar Ropele and Abel Rodriguez.
The Miners and Demons can also be seen on the CUSA.TV live stream.