UTEP To Play At Preseason C-USA Favorite UAB Thursday - Photo Courtesy of UTEP Athletics
UTEP To Play At Preseason C-USA Favorite UAB Thursday - Photo Courtesy of UTEP Athletics

UTEP To Play At Preseason C-USA Favorite UAB Thursday

UTEP To Play At Preseason C-USA Favorite UAB Thursday


The UTEP men’s basketball team (8-4, 1-0 C-USA) will kick off the remainder of league play (19 games left) when it challenges UAB (10-2, 1-0 C-USA) in its first Conference USA road tilt at 5:30 p.m. MT/6:30 p.m. CT. Thursday. Mattress Firm is the Presenting Sponsor of UTEP Men’s Basketball. The Miners earned runner-up honors at the 61st-annual WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational after falling to Kent State in the title tilt, 47-46, on Dec. 22 before taking a break for the holidays. The Blazers have reeled off three straight wins, including most recently besting Charlotte, 76-68, in their C-USA opener on Dec. 22. This is the first of two meetings on the year between the programs, with UAB set to pay the return visit to El Paso on Feb. 16. The Blazers are undefeated (8-0) at home while the Orange and Blue will be seeking their first road victory (0-3). It will mark the second straight game that the Miners are facing a team led by the reigning league player of the year (Sincere Carry-Kent State; Jordan Walker-UAB) and with a top-100 NET ranking (Kent State-25, UAB-54). The contest will air on “The Home of UTEP Basketball” 600 ESPN El Paso with Jon Teicher (42nd year) on the call, and it will also be streamed nationally on ESPN+.



UTEP is in search of its first 2-0 start to C-USA play since the 2012-13 season (finished 10-6 in the league). The Miners have already made some noise this year with the 60-55 vanquishing of LA Tech on Dec. 17 affording them their first victory to begin C-USA action in seven years. 



UAB leads the series with UTEP, 16-9, aided by seven straight wins. The Blazers claimed both meetings last year, including a narrow 69-66 victory in El Paso in the most-recent match-up (Feb. 26, 2022). UTEP is in search of its first win against UAB since Feb. 2, 2017, (W, 63-59 at Haskins Center. A victory in Birmingham would be the Miners’ first road win in the series since a 63-61 triumph on Jan. 18, 2014.



Defending C-USA tournament champion and preseason league favorite UAB is rolling in 2022-23, sporting a 10-2 mark (1-0 C-USA). That includes wins against SEC foes Georgia and South Carolina. The Blazers are undefeated at home (8-0), with each of those victories by at least eight points. Leading the charge is reigning C-USA Player of the Year, Jordan “Jelly” Walker, who is pouring in a nation-leading 24.6 points per game. The Blazers are an experienced group with seven players with 100+ games played and five 1,000+ point scorers. Eric Gaines (11.1 ppg) and KJ Buffen (10.8 ppg) are also in double figures for scoring for UAB, which is first in C-USA and fifth nationally at 86.9 points per game. It shares the ball extremely well at 17.2 assists per game (second C-USA/22nd NCAA), with Walker (4.9 apg-second C-USA) and Gaines (4.8 apg-third C-USA) setting the tone in the department. The Blazers get out and run with a C-USA best 15.8 fastbreak points per game (29th NCAA). They also do a good job of getting to the line and making their attempts. UAB hits 18.2 tosses per game (first C-USA/11th NCAA) out of 24.2 attempts per contest (second C-USA 19th NCAA) for a clip of 75.3 percent (first C-USA/43rd NCAA). They are the best rebounding team in C-USA at +8.8 (16th NCAA), with Trey Jemison (7.8 rpg- first C-USA) and Buffen (7.0 rpg-fifth C-USA) putting in the most work. UAB is under the direction of fifth-year head coach Andy Kennedy, who has a dazzling 59-17 mark in that timeframe (325-186 overall). Following a 1-1 start to the season, UAB has won nine of 10 to enter Thursday’s match-up at 10-2. The Blazers are currently on a three-game winning streak, most recently holding off Charlotte, 76-68, in their C-USA opener at home on Dec. 22. The university was founded in 1969. Notable alumni include Regina Benjamin (former U.S. Surgeon General), Steve Chiotakis (featured on All Things Considered broadcast), Deidre Downs (2005 Miss America) and Vonetta Flowers (2002 Olympic gold medalist in bobsled)



In a back-and-forth game that featured eight ties and 17 lead changes, UTEP was edged by preseason MAC favorite Kent State, 47-46, in the championship contest of the WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational in front of 5,705 fans on Dec. 22. A Kevin Kalu putback gave the Miners a one-point lead (46-45) with 53 seconds remaining in regulation. After empty possessions from both sides, a foul on UTEP led to two free throws for the Golden Flashes with 18 seconds to go. Tournament MVP Sincere Carry sank both shots of the one-and-one attempts to put the visitors up one. UTEP had a chance to win it in the waning seconds, but a shot in traffic by All-Tournament team member Shamar Givance was blocked as he went spiraling to the deck and the clock expired to hand the Orange and Blue their first home setback (8-1) of the campaign.  Tae Hardy, the Don Haskins Award recipient, paced the Miners with 11 points while Givance netted 10. Otis Frazier III contributed eight points and a game and career-high nine rebounds in his first extensive action since returning from an injury. Kalu tallied seven points to go along with six boards. The Miners held the Golden Flashes to just 32.1 percent from the floor, including 4-25 from distance (16.0 percent). UTEP connected on 38.3 percent but was hindered by 19 turnovers that led to 19 points for the visitors.  UTEP won the boards, 44-26, aided by a season-high 14 offensive rebounds, resulted in 13 second-chance points. The Miners also controlled the paint, 24-14, but that wasn’t enough. UTEP was without the services of its second-leading scorer (Mario McKinney) due to an injury.



UTEP had a season-high 22 turnovers while forcing an opponent campaign-low seven in the game against Kent State (Dec. 22). It marked just the third time this year (in 12 contests) that the Miners had a negative turnover margin. Overall, on the season, UTEP has a +2.4 turnover margin to place fourth in C-USA and 76th in the country.



Two of the past three and eight opponents total have been held to below 30 percent from the floor on 3-point attempts. The most-recent sparkling effort in that area was limiting Kent State to 16.0 percent (4-25) from beyond-the-arc. UTEP now sports a 3-point percentage defense of 29.8 on the year, good enough for third in C-USA and 61st nationwide.



UTEP has won the rebounding battle in back-to-back contests for the first time this season. The Miners outrebounded NC A&T, 35-31, on Dec. 21, before posting a campaign-best +18 readout (44-26) readout on the glass against Kent State on Dec. 22. The +18 differential was the best in against a Division I opponent since also registering a +18 cushion against UTSA on Jan. 30, 2021.



For the second time this season, three consecutive opponents have been held to below 40 percent from the floor. The last time UTEP posted a longer stretch against DI opposition came during a five-game streak in C-USA play during the 2016-17 campaign.



After connecting on just 15-37 at the charity stripe (40.5 percent) in the win against LA Tech on Dec. 17, the Miners have made a combined 20-28 (71.4 percent) the past two games.



UTEP (now 8-4) burst out to a mark of 8-3 on the season, which equaled the best start to a campaign since the 2019-20 squad also came out at 8-3 (eventually 9-3). That team finished at 17-15.



After yielding 90+ points in back-to-back games against Division I opposition (L, 95-70, at NM State- Nov. 30; L, 91-70, at DePaul- Dec. 10), the Miners have returned to form the past three games. All three opponents have failed to eclipse 40.0 percent from the floor and been held to less than 62 points. That includes yielding an opponent season-low 47 points in the one-point setback against Kent State on Dec. 22. It marked the fewest points by a foe since Charlotte also had 47 (Feb. 27, 2021).



During the Miners’ first seven contests of the campaign against Division I opposition, they had been outpaced by an average score of 40.1-31.4 (281-220) in the second half of those games. UTEP has started to make progress in the department, outscoring its foes during the second half in three consecutive contests (2-1 record in games). They were +2 against LA Tech (Dec. 17), +9 (44-35) against NC A&T on Dec. 21 and +2 (24-22) against Kent State (Dec. 22).



The old saying goes that free throws win ball games, but UTEP is 8-4 despite struggling at the charity stripe (191-313, 61.0 percent). It is 5-1 on the season when shooting 60 percent or less in a contest and 3-3 when eclipsing that figure. Included in the win count when falling short of 60 percent was a 40.5 percent (15-37) effort in a 60-55 triumph against LA Tech on Dec. 17. It marked the first time the Miners had won a game with 20+ misses at the charity stripe since topping UTSA, 81-74, on March 5, 2016 (20-40). It was the lowest FT% in a contest since making 14.3 percent (1-7) in a 58-45 setback to LA Tech on Jan. 18, 2015.



UTEP nailed at least 40.0 percent of its shots in its first 11 contests, the longest stretch to begin a season since the 2010-11 team eclipsed 40 percent over the first 15 contests. The streak stopped against Kent State on Dec. 22 when Miners were held to 38.2, but overall, they are still shooting 46.4 percent from the floor compared to 40.9 percent (sixth C-USA/94th NCAA) by the opposition. UTEP has been particularly accurate with 2-point attempts, making 55.0 percent inside the arc.



UTEP has a +4.7 scoring margin (33.0-28.3) in the first half of contests this year, but in the second half that figure swings the other way to -1.3 (34.6-35.8). The Miners’ offensive output has been similar, but they have not been able to carry over the defense from the opening stanza. Foes are shooting 45.9 in the second half (36.3 in the first half), including 33.9 percent (26.3 in the first half) from 3-point range. That has resulted in opponents averaging 7.5 more ppg (35.8-28.3) in the second half compared to the first half. The Miners, though, have a positive second-half scoring differential in three straight games. They were +2 against LA Tech (Dec. 17), +9 (44-35) against NC A&T on Dec. 21 and +2 (24-22) against Kent State (Dec. 22).



UTEP is leading Conference USA in both overall attendance (45,371) and average attendance (5,041) in 2022-23. UAB (29,893) is the closest team for total attendance while Middle Tennessee (4,135) is the nearest for average attendance. Last year the Miners led in overall attendance and were second in the league in average attendance.



UTEP shot out to 8-0 at home, joining the 2019-20 team (9-0 start) and 2003-04 squad (8-0 start) as the only this century to win its first eight home contests. The Miners’ bid for a 9-0 start was denied in a one-point setback (47-46) against Kent State on Dec. 22. This year, UTEP has a +12.8 (71.9-59.1 ppg) scoring differential in the Sun City. UTEP is shooting 47.4 percent compared to 37.1 by the foes, has a +3.6 turnover margin (15.7-19.2) and has taken nearly 100 more free throws (240-149) in those nine contests.



Three of the Miners’ eight wins this year have come against teams that played postseason basketball a year ago, including two that went to the NCAA tournament. UTEP knocked off NM State (2022 NCAA second round) and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2022 NCAA first four), in addition to Alcorn State (2022 NIT). All three of those teams won their conference. UTEP also has a victory against LA Tech, which was a stellar 24-10 last season.



Exactly half (four of eight) of the Miners’ victories this year have been by five points or less, demonstrating their toughness and grit. UTEP toppled NM State by three (67-64, Nov. 12), CSU Bakersfield by one (68-67, OT, Nov. 23), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by five (72-67, Nov. 25) and LA Tech by five (60-55, Dec. 17). UTEP is 4-1 in such contests this season.



UTEP has held seven of its past nine opponents to below 40 percent from the floor, including forcing LA Tech into an opponent-season low 29.6 percent (16-54) shooting on Dec. 17. NM State (57.7 percent, Nov. 30) and then No. 12 Texas (54.8 percent, Nov. 7) are the only Miner opponents this year to hit at least 50 percent from the floor. Overall, foes have been limited to 40.9 percent (sixth C-USA/94th NCAA) compared to UTEP’s readout of 46.4 percent.



UTEP has a scoring defense of 59.1 ppg at the Don Haskins Center this season, with opponents shooting 37.1 overall and just 24.2 percent from 3-point range. None of the nine opponents have tallied more than 67 points in El Paso, with three held in the 50’s and one in the 40’s.



The Miners are allowing 86.0 points per game on the road, with the opposition making 53.5 percent overall and 46.2 percent from beyond-the-arc. All three foes have topped 70 points, including a pair above 90.



Even though the Miners have had some close calls this year, they are 8-0 on the season when they have a lead with 5:00 to play in the contest. UTEP is also perfect on the campaign (8-0) when up at the half.



Conference USA’s 11 squads thrived out of conference, with a combined mark of 86-34 between the 11 programs (through Dec. 27). Florida Atlantic (11-1) has one loss while UAB and North Texas have just a pair of losses. The league features four programs with top-100 NET rankings, in the form of FAU (13), North Texas (42), UAB (54) and Charlotte (72). Middle Tennessee is just outside at 105.



UTEP has been aggressive offensively, which has resulted in it going to the line early and often. The Miners are first in C-USA and seventh nationally with 26.1 free throw tosses per game, aiding by piling up 43 attempts against Alcorn State on Nov. 22. It marked the most free throw attempts by UTEP since taking 47 in a season-opening victory against Loyola on Nov. 14, 2016. UTEP’s 15.9 free throws made per contest is second in the conference and 34th in the nation. Overall, UTEP has attempted nearly 100 more tosses at the charity stripe than opponents 313-226). Tae Hardy (37-55), Calvin Solomon (22-45), Shamar Givance (34-43), Ze’Rik Onyema (16-35) and Kevin Kalu (15-31) all have 30+ attempts.



Southern Miss transfer Tae Hardy is doing a little bit of everything this year, pacing the Miners in scoring (12.8 ppg) while rating second in blocks per game (0.5 bpg) and assists per game (2.2). He’s also shown endurance, leading the squad at 31.7 minutes per game. He is one of three Miners to start all 12 games (Shamar Givance and Calvin Solomon) are the others. Hardy has been a consistent scorer, tallying at least eight points in all 12 contests of the season, including a pair of 20+ point efforts. He has led or shared the top spot on the team in scoring in seven tilts. Shamar Givance (two) is the only other play on the squad with more than one such efforts. Hardy also has a team-high seven double-digit scoring efforts.



Evansville transfer Shamar Givance, the only senior on the roster, has contributed in multiple ways this season while running the point for the Orange and Blue. He tops the team in assists per game (3.8-eighth C-USA) while sharing it for steals per game (1.7-eighth C-USA). He is also second in playing time (29.9 mpg) and free-throw percentage (min. 10 FTA, 79.1 percent) and ranking third in scoring (9.0 ppg). He has dished out at least five assists in five of the past seven contests and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of +1.4 (ninth C-USA). Givance has shown the ability for clutch play, making two free throws with 3.0 seconds left to help lift UTEP to a 68-67 OT win against CSUB on Nov. 23.



NM State transfer Mario McKinney Jr. has been a big key to UTEP’s early success. After reaching double digits in scoring in five of his first seven appearances (all off the bench), he earned his initial start of the year against LA Tech on Dec. 17. He has since returned to coming off the pine due to injuries. Overall, McKinney Jr. is second on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg), aided by a career-high 24 points on the road against his former squad on Nov. 30. He is tied for second on the squad for double-figure scoring efforts (five) and places third in rebounding (4.2 rpg).



After failing to reach double figures in scoring over his first two seasons with the Orange and Blue, forward Ze’Rik Onyema has done so in five contests this year (five straight to begin the season). He has also recorded his first career double-double (10 points, career-high 10 rebounds) in the win vs. Alcorn State on Nov. 22. He paces the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg)-aided by a tying for second on the team with 16 offensive boards-, is third in field-goal percentage (64.2) and fifth for scoring (7.1 ppg). He put up 2.0 ppg and 1.6 rpg in 2021-22.



Stephen F. Austin transfer Calvin Solomon has been an impact player for UTEP in his first year with the Miners. He is one of three players (Shamar Givance and Tae Hardy are the others) to have started all 12 contests on the season. Solomon shares the squad lead in steals per game (1.7-eighth C-USA), is second in rebounding (4.9 rpg) and assists per game (2.2), tied for second for total offensive boards (16) and rates sixth in scoring (6.3 ppg). Solomon has been assertive at attacking the defense with his 44 free-throw attempts ranking second on the unit.



Kevin Kalu has done good work inside, making 25-of-35 for the second-best field-goal percentage at 71.4 percent. Overall, he is putting up 5.4 ppg (1.5 ppg as a freshman last year). He’s also gotten after it on the glass recently, with 32 rebounds the past four games (8.0 rpg). That included a career-high nine boards at both DePaul (Dec. 10) and vs. LA Tech (Dec. 17). He paces the team in offensive boards (20) and is accounting for 3.8 rpg overall.



Sophomore junior-college transfer Derek Hamilton has shown tremendous potential in his nine appearances off the bench this year. He is accounting for 3.8 points per game despite playing only 5.0 minutes per contest. Hamilton has missed only four field goals (13-17) all season, for a team-leading 76.5 percent from the floor. He also tops the team in free-throw percentage (min. 10 attempts) by going 8-10 (80.0 percent).



Six different players are scoring between 6.0 and 13.0 points per game. Tae Hardy (12.8 ppg) and Mario McKinney Jr. (10.4 ppg) are in double figures to lead the way while Shamar Givance (9.0 ppg), Otis Frazier III (7.8 ppg), Ze’Rik Onyema (7.1 ppg) and Calvin Solomon (6.3 ppg) round out the group. There have been 11 players (out of 13) to register at least one double-digit scoring contests.



UTEP is forcing the opposition into 18.2 turnovers per game to rank second in Conference USA and place 16th nationally. The Miners harassed the first eight foes to commit at least 15 turnovers, the longest stretch to begin a season since the initial 12 opponents did so in 1974-75. Four opponents have made at least 20 giveaways, including 32 by Sul Ross (Nov. 15), which was the most in nine years by a UTEP opponent. Eleven of 12 foes have committed at least 14 turnovers.



UTEP’s pressure defense has resulted in 8.9 steals per game to place third in Conference USA and rank 43rd in the country. Aiding that figure was a school-record 24 steals in the victory against Sul Ross State on Nov. 15. Six different Miners had at least three steals in the contest to help them surge past the prior school standard of 21 which had stood since 1994 (against Cardinal Stich on Dec. 20, 1994). Several of those thefts were the result of UTEP players hitting the deck in pursuit of loose balls, even with the game well in hand. The Orange and Blue are currently on pace for 294 steals this season, which would break the school record (288, 2009-10).



The Miners’ bench has provided at least 15 points in 11 of 12 games this year (nine with 24+ points), including going off for a season-high 51 against Sul Ross State on Nov. 15. UTEP’s campaign best vs. DI foes is 34, which happened both at DePaul (Dec. 10) and against NC A&T (Dec. 21). Overall, UTEP reserves are contributing 27.8 points per game to rank fourth in Conference USA and 56th nationally. Super sub Mario McKinney Jr. has been vital in this category, tallying 10.4 ppg while coming off the pine in eight of his nine total appearances.



UTEP went to overtime in back-to-back contests at the Jim Forbes Classic presented by Speaking Rock, defeating Alcorn State, 73-61, in double OT on Nov. 22 before besting CSUB, 68-67, in OT on Nov. 23. It marked the first time since the 2016-17 season that the Miners posted consecutive wins in OT. That year UTEP knocked off FIU (88-87, 2OT, 1/14/17) and Florida Atlantic (66-65, OT, 1/16/17) in back-to-back contests during the 2016-17 season. Overall, UTEP is now 69-46 all time in overtime contests, including 3-1 under head coach Joe Golding.



UTEP played in front of an almost capacity crowd of 11,315 fans in the win against NM State on Nov. 12. It marked the largest home attendance for the Miners since an actual sellout (12,000) of the Don Haskins Center when they beat WKU, 93-89, in a game commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Texas Western NCAA Champions.



Between Jamari SibleyKevin Kalu and Ze’Rik Onyema, the Miners returned just 20.8 percent of their rebounding, 11.1 percent of their scoring and 9.0 percent of their assists from the 2021-22 squad. In total, the Miners lost four starters and 12 letter winners from last year’s squad, including a pair of All-Conference USA performers in Souley Boum (second team) and Jamal Bieniemy (third team).



UTEP lost four starters and 12 letter winners from last year’s team, giving the Miners a new look in year two under head coach Joe Golding. UTEP brought in six Division I transfers (Otis Frazier III, George Mason, Shamar Givance, Evansville, Tae Hardy, Southern Miss, Garrett Levesque, Tarleton State, Mario McKinney Jr., NM State and Calvin Solomon, Stephen F. Austin) while adding four junior-college transfers (Jon Dos Anjos, Florida SouthWestern College, Derick Hamilton, Bossier Parish CC, Carlos Lemus, Chipola College and Malik Zachery, South Plains) and two true freshmen (Antwonne Holmes, Chapin HS, El Paso, Texas, and Jamal Sumlin, Rhodes HS, Cleveland, Ohio). It should be noted that Dos Anjos spent his freshman campaign at Loyola Marymount (Calif.) before going the junior-college route.



The Miners’ six DI transfers combined to play in 379 contests, including making 165 starts, prior to their arrival in the Sun City. Shamar Givance (Evansville, 118 GP, 63 GS) and Calvin Solomon (Stephen F. Austin, 82 GP, 56 GS) are the most experienced of the bunch, but Otis Frazier III, George Mason, 35 GP), Mario McKinney Jr. (NM State, 38 GP, 5 GS) and Tae Hardy (Southern Miss, 30 GP, 26 GS) also have 30+ appearances.



UTEP is 8-1 at home thus far, (8-0 start), which allowed it to join the 2019-20 team (9-0) and the 2003-04 unit (8-0) as the only this century to start at least 8-0. The Miners are scheduled to play 18 total times in the Don Haskins Center, with eight nonconference (finished 7-1) and 10 Conference USA tilts (1-0 thus far). The Miners have nine home tilts remaining (all in C-USA) and are well on their way to a fourth straight season with 10+ home wins. 



UTEP is 0-3 on the road, including falling at No. 12 Texas, 72-57, in its season opener on Nov. 7. It marked the first time to begin the season with a true road game since a 73-61 victory at Pac-12 foe Washington on Nov. 21, 2000. Overall, the Miners will have 13 road games (0-3 thus far) on the year, with three nonconference (finished 0-3) and 10 in C-USA (0-0 thus far). UTEP went 7-6 in 2021-22 on the road, its first winning road record since forging a mark of 8-2 in 2013-14. The Miners’ next road game will come at UAB on Thursday.



The Miners will have 17 contests (0-3 thus far in situation) to be broadcast/streamed on nationwide platforms, with 13 on ESPN+ (0-1), and one each on ESPNU, FS1 (0-1), the Longhorn Network (0-1) and Stadium. Thursday’s game at UAB provides another chance to shine in front of the country.



–    UTEP (20-14) posted its first 20+ win season since going 22-11 in 2014-15. It marked the 27th 20+ win campaign in program history.

–    The Miners notched their first postseason appearance since 2015 and first postseason win since 2009.

–    The Miners finished 11-7 in league play to secure their first winning conference record since forging a mark of 12-6 in 2016-17. That was aided by winning 10 of 14 down the stretch, including halting back-to-back C-USA West Division Champion North Texas’ 15-game winning streak, 70-68, on “Senior Day” on March 5.

–    UTEP downed Old Dominion, 74-64, on March 9 for its first victory at the C-USA Championships in five years.

–    UTEP’s seven road wins were the most since going 8-2 in 2013-14.

–    The Miners had their first winning road record (5-4) in league play since 2016-17.

–    UTEP’s five league road wins surpassed its total (four) of such games from the prior three seasons combined.

–    UTEP had a six-game conference USA winning streak (Jan. 15 to Feb. 5), which was its longest since also posting six straight wins in 2016 (2/4-20/16). It marked the fifth winning streak of at least six C-USA games since the Miners joined the league in 2005-06.



–    This is the 102nd season of UTEP men’s basketball. The Miners made history by starting five African-Americans to defeat Kentucky, 72-65, and win the 1966 NCAA Championship on the way to inspiring the Disney hit movie Glory Road. Overall, UTEP has 17 NCAA Tournament appearances (last in 2010), 11 NIT bids (last in 2015), 12 conference championships (last in 2010) and 27 seasons with at least 20+ victories (last in 2022). The Miners have won five league tournaments (last in 2005).

–    The Miners have a strong presence in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with Don Haskins, Nate Archibald, Nolan Richardson, the 1966 team and Tim Hardaway all representing UTEP.

–    UTEP finished 20-14 in 2021-22, which was its most wins since going 22-11 in 2014-15.

–    The Miners returned one starter (Jamari Sibley), and three letter winners overall. The two other returning letter winners are Kevin Kalu and Ze’Rik Onyema.

–    UTEP has 12 newcomers: Jon Dos AnjosOtis Frazier IIIShamar GivanceDerick HamiltonTae HardyAntwonne HolmesCarlos LemusGarrett LevesqueMario McKinney Jr.Calvin SolomonJamal Sumlin and Malik Zachery.



Joe Golding is in his second year at UTEP and is the 20th head coach in program history. He is the eighth head coach for the Miners since legendary Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins retired following the 1998-99 season. Golding is 186-162 in his 12th season as a collegiate head coach, including 28-18 at UTEP. Last year he became the fourth head coach (20 total) in program history to have a winning season in their first year on the sideline. Don Haskins was the first when he directed the Miners to a mark of 18-6 in 1961-62. Doc Sadler (27-8, 2004-05) and Tim Floyd (25-10, 2010-11) also achieved the feat. Overall, the prior 19 head coaches combined to forge an average record of 9-13 in their first year with UTEP. Previously Golding spent 10 years at Abilene Christian (158-144), helping it transition from a Division II to a Division I program. Golding led the Wildcats to the 2019 and 2021 NCAA Tournaments, including a stunning upset as a 14-seed of third-seeded Texas in the first round of the 2021 Big Dance.



UTEP was predicted to finish eighth out of 11 teams in Conference USA for the 2022-23 season, but keep in mind that last year’s edition of the Miners was underestimated. The Orange and Blue were tabbed to finish in 10th place a year ago before tying for the fifth-most wins in league play by forging a mark of 11-7 in 18 C-USA tilts. Overall UAB was predicted to finish first, followed by WKU and North Texas at second and third, respectively.



UTEP returns home to play host to Rice at 2 p.m. MT on Saturday with a special 2 p.m. tipoff as part of celebrating New Year’s Eve. The game will be broadcast on 600 ESPN El Paso and streamed on CUSA.tv (subscription required). Tickets are available by visiting www.UTEPMiners.com/or by calling (915) 747-UTEP.