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H-P Sports In Depth: Miners set to Tip Off Haskins Sun Bowl Tourney vs. Maryland Eastern Shore

Coming off a 76-74 loss to Northern Arizona and riding a six-game losing streak, the UTEP men’s basketball team will face a 1-11 Maryland Eastern Shore squad when play tips off in the 55th Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Wednesday.

Akron will take on defending tournament UC Irvine at 5 p.m., with the Miners and the Hawks set to battle at 7 in the Don Haskins Center.

Maryland Eastern Shore is 0-10 on the road but has played one of the most difficult schedules in the country.  The Hawks have already faced Boston College, Wichita State, Colorado State, LA Tech, Virginia Tech, UCF and Michigan.

“We will not take Maryland Eastern Shore for granted.  We should not.  We’ve got a ballclub that beat Alaska Fairbanks by one,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said.  “We have got issues in terms of stopping people.  Our defensive field goal percentage is last in our conference.  Our three-point defensive field goal percentage is last in our conference.  Those are the two things that we feel like we can get better at.

“We have scored enough points at New Mexico, against New Mexico State and Northern Arizona to win.  But we have simply not been able to hold people below who they are, and it has been a great departure from where our teams have been through the years.  That is where our emphasis has been every day in practice and also continuing to share the ball, continuing to try to keep players’ heads up.”

The Miners haven’t tasted victory since Nov. 18, when they knocked off Western Michigan 85-75 at the Charleston Classic to climb to 2-1 on the season.

“I think when guys lose five or six in a row they become vulnerable and we have tried to be as positive as we possibly can with these guys,” Floyd said.  “It will be a real challenge for us against Maryland Eastern Shore because they are probably more athletic than we are and they are playing with a great deal of speed and quickness.”

The Hawks are led by junior guard Ryan Andino, who averages 13.7 points per game.  He is seventh in the nation in three-pointers made (46) and attempted (107), and eighth in three-point field goals per game (3.8).

Maryland Eastern Shore may have gained some confidence by taking American University down to the wire on the road Monday before losing 61-58.  The Miners are seeking a confidence boost of their own.

“I think that when you win games, players are typically unrealistic and it’s a great time to go pound them and go grind them,” Floyd said.  “When you lose games, I do think they’re vulnerable.  And I think that your approach has to be with that in mind, but it still has to be very, very competitive.  So we have had a lot of time and score situations in our practice, trying to appeal to where we’re down four with a minute and 45 seconds to go and we’re going to go compete in that situation and go play. Because players like to compete in practice, versus drill in practice.  We try to do a little bit of both.”

Right now the Miners are just trying to win a game and if they do, they’ll land in Thursday’s championship.  To get that elusive victory, they’ll need to break it down to the simplest of principles.

“What I want to do is coach possession by possession right now and make sure that we continue to improve,” Floyd said.  “We may be in a timeout two minutes into the ballgame to talk about something we have emphasized over the last two days … right now we are a real work in progress.  But I have had teams … I had a team at New Orleans that started 2-9 and we ended up winning 19 of our last 21 games.  So teams can get better.  And I suspect this team will get better.”

The Miners are 84-24 all-time in the Sun Bowl Invitational with 31 titles and 43 berths in the championship game.  UTEP is 21-7 in the Sun Bowl Invitational with Floyd on the bench (11-5 as an assistant coach, 10-2 as head coach).

Tickets to this year’s event are available by calling (915) 533-4416.

OPENING TIP

–    UTEP (2-7) participates in the 55th Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Wednesday and Thursday(Dec. 21-22) in the Haskins Center.
–    Wednesday’s matchups are Akron versus UC Irvine at 5 p.m., and UTEP versus Maryland Eastern Shore at 7 p.m.  The consolation game is at 5 on Thursday, with the championship to follow at 7.
–    This year’s field features two teams that won conference championships and set school records for wins a year ago in Akron and UC Irvine, the latter of which is the defending tournament champion.
–    UTEP has posted an all-time record of 84-24 in the Sun Bowl Invitational.  The Miners have won titles  on  31  occasions  and  played  in  the  championship  game  43  times  (there  was  no  championship  game  in  2010).  The  event  originated  in 1961 as the Sun Carnival Basketball Tournament and took Don Haskins’ name in 2009.

SUN BOWL INVITATIONAL EXPERIENCE

–    Six players on the UTEP roster have played in the Sun Bowl Invitational — Dominic Artis (two games), Jake Flaggert (four games), Omega Harris (four games), Paul Thomas (two games), Trey Touchet (two games) and Matt Willms (four games).
–    Artis averaged 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in last year’s tourney, making 4-of-8 three pointers (.500) and 9-of-11 free throws (.818).
–    Harris has averaged 12.5 ppg in the tournament with a .462 (12-for-26) three-point field goal percentage.
–    Willms has made 9-of-13 shots (.692) in the Sun Bowl Invitational, averaging 6.8 points.
–    UTEP is 22-7 in the Sun Bowl Invitational with Tim Floyd on the bench (11-5 as an assistant coach, 10-2 as head coach).

ABOUT MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE

–    The Hawks dropped their fourth consecutive game, falling to 1-11 on the season with a 61-58 loss at American on Monday.
–    Maryland Eastern Shore has played the 50th-toughest schedule in the country.  The Hawks have already faced Boston College, Wichita State, Colorado State, LA Tech, Virginia Tech, UCF and Michigan.
–    The Hawks are 0-10 on the road.
–    Junior guard Ryan Andino averages 13.7 ppg to pace Maryland Eastern Shore.  Senior forward Bakari Copeland averages 13.4 ppg.
–    Andino is seventh in the nation in three-pointers made (46) and attempted (107), and eighth in three-point field goals per game (3.8).
–    Sophomore guard Dontae Caldwell is a former AAU teammate of UTEP freshman guard Chris Barnes.  Caldwell is from Santa Ana, Calif. and Barnes hails from Compton.
–    The Hawks are shooting 39.8 percent from the field, 33.8 percent from three-point range and 67.4 percent from the line, averaging 65.3 points.
–    Maryland Eastern Shore has given up 80 points per game with a .486 defensive field goal percentage and .401 defensive three-point percentage.
–    The Hawks have a rebound margin of -7.2 per game.  The squad’s top board man is Copeland at 5.7 rpg.

SERIES HISTORY

–    The Miners won the only previous meeting between the teams, 101-64, on Dec. 6, 1990 in the Haskins Center.

THE LAST MEETING

–    UTEP shot 63.8 percent from the field in the first half in building a 51-31 lead and coasted to a 101-64 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 6, 1990 in the Haskins Center.
–    A 14-2 run turned a 21-12 lead into a 35-14 advantage.  Roy Howard scored six of his nine points during the run.
–    Marlon Maxey and Johnny Melvin scored 18 points apiece for the Miners.  Von Bennett and David Van Dyke scored 14 each.
–    The Miners shot 50.7 percent from the field, made 23-of-28 free throws and outrebounded their guests 52-29.  UTEP also collected 26 assists (eight from Melvin, seven from Gym Bice) and 15 steals.
–    Maryland Eastern Shore shot 33.3 percent from the field and received 12 points from Robert Spear.  He was their only player in double figures.

LAST GAME: NORTHERN ARIZONA 76, UTEP 74

–    Northern Arizona shot a season-high 53.7 percent from the field, including 57.7 percent in the second half, in handing UTEP a 76-74 loss on Saturday at the Haskins Center.
–    The Lumberjacks also made eight three-pointers to snap a four-game losing streak.
–    The Miners appeared headed to a runaway victory when they scored 16 of the game’s first 20 points.  UTEP led 22-14 midway through the first half but was outscored 20-7 over the last 9:43 to fall behind 34-29 at the intermission.
–    UTEP took a three-point lead (43-40), its largest of the second half, on a three-pointer by Omega Harris with 15:48remaining.  Mike Green gave Northern Arizona the lead for good, 56-55, on a layup with 9:37 to go.
–    The Miners were down by eight (72-64) with a little over three minutes to play.  They pulled within three twice, the last at 74-71 on another Harris triple at the 1:14 mark.  Harris missed a potential game-tying three with 17 seconds left.  The Lumberjacks made a couple of free throws, rendering Deon Barrett’s three-pointer right before the buzzer meaningless.
–    Harris led the Miners, who had four players in double figures, with 22 points.  Jake Flaggert established career-highs for points (15) and three-pointers (five).  Dominic Artis collected his sixth career double-double (11 points, 12 assists), and Matt Willms contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
–    Jordyn Martin led Northern Arizona with 18 points.  The Lumberjacks dominated the Miners on the boards, 38-24, leading to 13 second-chance points.

MINERS IN THE NCAA STATS

–    UTEP was ranked 33rd nationally in assists per game (17.2) through the games of Dec 19.
–    Individually, Dominic Artis was third in assists (8.4 apg), 12th in steals (2.7 spg) and 20th in minutes (36.1 avg.).
–    Artis is the only player in the country averaging at least 14 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
–    Artis and Omaha’s Tra-Deon Hollins (6.8 apg/2.8 spg) are the only players ranked in the top-15 nationally in assists and steals.
–    Dominic Artis is the only player in the country to dish out 12 assists or more in three games this season.  Artis compiled 13 in the opener versus Louisiana College, 12 at New Mexico and 12 against Northern Arizona.

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