GAME NOTES: A pair of Conference USA teams trending in opposite directions will meet up at the Don Haskins Center on Saturday afternoon, as the surging Texas-El Paso Miners host the slumping Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners.
UTSA will wrap up a three-game road swing with this matchup and began the trip with losses at UAB (78-65) on Jan. 16 and most recently at Middle Tennessee (80-58) last Saturday. The Roadrunners, who are 6-11 overall and 2-2 in conference play, have gone just 1-6 away from home this season.
Meanwhile, UTEP has enjoyed three straight victories since dropping its C-USA opener to surge to 3-1 in the league and 13-6 overall. The Miners' latest contest ended in a thrilling 63-61 victory at UAB, and now they return home to El Paso, where they've won nine of 12 bouts.
These newly-formed conference rivals last met in November of 2011, when UTSA downed UTEP, 73-64. The Miners still hold a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series.
The Roadrunners fell into a quick 13-0 hole against Middle Tennessee less than six minutes into their most recent tilt and were never a factor from that point forward en route to the 22-point setback. They shot a lowly 33.3 percent from the field and finished with just as many turnovers as field goals (16). Devon Agusi was one of the few bright spots in the loss, scoring 18 points on 4-of-9 from the field and 10-of-11 at the foul line. Kaj-Bjorn Sherman came off the bench to register 12 points, while Jordan Sims finished with 11 points on 3-of-8 from 3-point range.
UTSA's offensive production has been respectable this season, as it shoots 43.7 percent from the field for 70.7 ppg, but it has suffered a disappointing fate due to its porous defense, which yields 78.7 ppg on 47.6 percent shooting. Its dreadful -4.6 turnover margin certainly doesn't help matters much either. Keon Lewis nets a team-high 14.3 ppg, and while his field goal percentage is far from impressive (.407), he makes up for it with an 81.1 percent showing at the stripe. Agusi (12.2 ppg), Sims (11.1 ppg) and Hyjii Thomas (10.9 ppg) also net in double figures.
After leading for the majority of the second half last Saturday, the Miners found themselves down by one late in the game before John Bohannon delivered the game-winning bucket with 1:58 to play. They shot 44.4 percent from the field on the evening, which just barely outpaced UAB (.423), and they outscored the Blazers from beyond the arc, 18-6. C.J. Cooper connected on four of those 3-pointers on his way to 17 points. Vince Hunter was strong in the paint with 18 points and nine rebounds, as was Bohannon with 11 points and eight boards.
UTEP's success this season has come on the back of its outstanding defense, as it allows its opponents to connect on a mere 37.6 percent of its field-goal tries for 64.3 ppg. The strong play on the defensive end of the court helps the team mask its scoring deficiencies (69.0 ppg), especially since McKenzie Moore (13.1 ppg) was dismissed from the team a few weeks back. The scoring load is shouldered mostly by Julian Washburn (11.7 ppg), Hunter (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Bohannon (11.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.9 bpg). Washburn makes field goals at just 39.5 percent efficiency, but both Hunter and Bohannon clock in at greater than 55 percent shooting.
UTEP has had very little issue dismissing lesser competition this season, especially on its home floor, meaning it should be on its way to an easy triumph against the floundering Roadrunners.
Game Date and Time