File photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | UTEP Athletics
UTEP (16-7, 13-5 C-USA) will tip off the 2021 Conference USA Basketball Championships on Thursday, March 11 as the Miners face No. 3-seed Florida Atlantic (11-10, 8-8 C-USA) at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
“It’s going to be a great tournament because what the league has shown us already so far is that anybody can beat anybody. It has sort of been crazy this year. For us to be successful, I feel like our team is built for the tournament,” Coach Kevin Baker shares.
“We have great depth and we’ve gotten a lot of rest this week. We are fresh and ready to go. I feel good about our chances. We can beat anybody on the bracket, but there is not an easy game on the bracket, either. We’re going to have to play well, but I do like the way we’re playing. I think if the ball bounces the right way for us, we can get this thing done.”
Florida Atlantic is 11-10 overall following its 72-66 win over UAB on Wednesday. The Owls earned the No. 3 seed in the East after posting an 8-8 record in C-USA this season. FAU ended the season by winning 7 of their last 9 games, including a split versus the Miners in El Paso on Feruary 21-22.
UTEP fell to the Owls by a score of 67-62 in the opening game of the series, which snapped a 9-game win streak. The Miners rebounded with a 92-62 win over FAU the following day to split the series.
When the Miners take the court on Thursday, it will have been exactly 365 days since Conference USA officially announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2020 Air Force Reserve C-USA Basketball Championships, which just happened to be three hours prior to UTEP’s quarterfinal matchup versus Old Dominion.
In the opening round of last year’s Conference USA Championships, six different players hit double figures in scoring as UTEP soared past Florida Atlantic, 95-67, in a record-setting win on March 11, 2020.
The Miners (16-14) broke school conference tournament records for margin of victory (28), points (95 and 3-pointers made (11), while tying the mark for field goals made (33), 3-point percentage (50.0 percent) and overall field-goal percentage (55.0 percent). The effort propels UTEP to the quarterfinals for the third straight year under head coach Kevin Baker, continuing the longest such streak to start a career at the school. Additionally, the 95 points are the fourth-highest total by any program in C-USA tournament history.
Sabine Lipe (career-high 16 points), Katarina Zec (16 points), DeJaNae Roebuck (13 points), Avery Crouse (12 points) and Arina Khlopkova (10 points) all hit double figures in scoring for UTEP. The Miners connected on 50 percent (33-60) from the floor, including 82.4 percent (14-17) during a dominant first quarter that resulted in them leading by 21 (36-15) through 10 minutes of action. The 36 points scored in the opening framed tied as the most in a quarter in program history. The Miners won the boards (38-31) and forced 22 turnovers that result in 22 points during the wire-to-wire win.
It marked the third time that season that the Orange and Blue surpassed 90 points without having any individual player tally more than 16 points in a contest.
Matchup: (2W) UTEP vs. (3E) Florida Atlantic
Date: March 11, 2021
Location: Ford Center at The Star (Frisco, Texas)
Tipoff: 1:30 p.m. MT | 2:30 p.m. CT
Audio: UTEP Miners App | ESPN 600 El Paso
Radio Talent: Jon Teicher