After another extended break, UTEP will commence Conference USA play on Thursday (January 3) at UTSA. The Miners (5-6) and Roadrunners (6-7) are set to tip off at 6 p.m. MT in the UTSA Convocation Center.
“Steve’s [Henson] a really good coach and does a great job with his guys,” first-year UTEP head coach Rodney Terry said. “We [while at Fresno State] got to play those guys two years ago when he first got the job. He’s done a great job with the program in terms of getting his guys to play hard. From an offensive standpoint, they really want to score the basketball. They want to get out and run, play fast. They have two guards who will give you fits on any given night in Jackson and Wallace. Between the two of them, they’ll shoot 20 three’s every game.”
The Miners last played on December 22 – a 76-65 win against Wyoming, while UTSA is coming off a 70-67 victory over SE Oklahoma State on Dec. 29.
The contest will feature a trio of players who are some of the league’s top scorers and rebounders. Evan Gilyard (18.4 ppg) ranks sixth in C-USA in scoring and leads C-USA in three-point field goal percentage (.453), while Efe Odigie leads the league at 9.2 rebounds per game.
C-USA’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Jhivvan Jackson, averages 20.9 points per game for UTSA and fellow sophomore guard Keaton Wallace (18.2 ppg) ranks eighth in the league in scoring.
UTEP leads the all-time series 10-6, though UTSA has won the last three matchups between the Texas rivals.
UTEP is coming off a triumph against Wyoming on Dec. 22 in the consolation game at the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational. Odigie registered the fifth double-double of his young career, scoring 12 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Odigie has also hit double figures in scoring in all 11 games to begin his collegiate career. Gilyard came off the bench for a second straight night to lead the Miners in scoring with 20 points. Gilyard tied his career high with six made three-point buckets on nine attempts in 34 minutes of action.
Jordan Lathon, after tallying one point the night prior against Norfolk State, scored 10 points and added a pair of blocked shots. Paul Thomas hit double figures in points (10) for the first time in five games. Nigel Hawkins scored 13 points during a team-high 38 minutes of action and Ountae Campbell set career bests in rebounds (five), assists (three) and steals (three).
Thomas, Gilyard and Lathon each dished out four assists against the Cowboys.
The Miners’ scoring defense (69.3 ppg) and field goal defense (.425) both rank sixth in C-USA. UTEP has connected on 35.2 percent of its three-point buckets, ranking fourth in the league.
After an 0-5 start, UTSA has won six of its last eight games, including Saturday’s 70-67 victory over SE Oklahoma State. The Roadrunners fell against Oklahoma, 87-67 and at Oklahoma State, 82-60, during the winless start. UTSA scored 100-plus points during a pair of victories, defeating Mid-America Christian, 104-74, on Dec. 8 and taking down Bethany (Kansas), 101-77, on Dec. 17.
Jackson, who missed the first three games of the season, has either led or tied for the team lead in scoring in seven games since his return. Jackson’s season-high was Saturday’s 32-point effort (career high) against SE Oklahoma State. Wallace’s season high was a 35-point outburst against Mid-American.
UTSA 6-8 junior forward Byron Frohnen leads the team at 7.6 rebounds per game. Junior guard Giovanni De Nicolao leads with 43 assists.
UTSA shoots well from the charity stripe, as it ranks second in C-USA in free-throw percentage (74.2). The Roadrunners also rank fourth in the league in rebounds per game (38.8) and steals per game (7.7).
The game will be streamed on ESPN+ with Lincoln Rose and Van Chancellor calling the action, and can be heard on KOFX 92.3 FM and tunein.com with “The Voice of the UTEP Miners” Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen on the mike.
A Spanish radio broadcast is available on ESPN Deportes 1650 AM with Omar Ropele.