GAME NOTES: The Texas-El Paso Miners will try to keep pace atop the Conference USA standings on Thursday night when they travel to Devlin Fieldhouse to take on the Tulane Green Wave.
UTEP has been red-hot in recent weeks, winning nine of its last 10 games to surge to 9-2 in C-USA, good for a three-game tie for first place with Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. The Miners most recently downed FIU at home on Saturday, 84-71, to improve to 19-7 overall, and they have shined on the road as well at 5-1.
While Tulane hasn't been as hot as UTEP, it has still been on the upswing of late with wins in three of its last four games, including an 86-80 triumph at UAB on Saturday. The Green Wave are now 14-12 overall and 6-5 in conference action and have impressed on their home floor, going 10-4 in New Orleans.
UTEP holds a 9-3 advantage over Tulane in the all-time series, but that includes just a 2-3 mark at Devlin Fieldhouse.
The Miners ran out to a commanding 18-point lead at the half of their most recent game and their advantage was never in jeopardy from that point forward. They shot a lofty 57.1 percent from the field, including 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, and knocked down 21-of-27 from the free-throw line. Vince Hunter scored 21 points and Julian Washburn followed closely with 20, and both were surgically efficient, combining to shoot 15-of-22 from the field. C.J. Cooper tallied 17 points and seven assists, while Cedrick Lang put up 12 points and eight assists.
On the season, UTEP has displayed strong balance on both ends of the floor, outshooting its opponents from the field, 46.5 percent to 38.2 percent, for a +6.3 scoring margin. Washburn is the leading scorer with 13.3 ppg and has drained 38 3-pointers at a 40.4 percent clip. Hunter (12.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and John Bohannon (11.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg) have been strong in the frontcourt, while Cooper brings 9.8 ppg and 2.7 apg to the table.
The Green Wave held an 11-point lead in the final minute of their latest bout, and even though UAB put together a furious run to bring their deficit to just four in the waning seconds, it was unable to overtake the lead. The Green Wave shot nearly 57 percent from the field in the triumph, compared to only 36.8 percent for UAB, and their hot shooting helped mask a game-high 17 turnovers. Tre Drye paced the effort with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Louis Dabney was hot on his heels with 20 points and Cameron Reynolds came off the bench to score 11 points.
Tulane has been a bit of an anomaly this season, as it sits with a record above .500 despite its lackluster -5.2 scoring margin, as it shoots just 41.8 percent from the field and commits two more turnovers per game than it forces. Dabney is the spark plug with 16.7 ppg while adding 1.4 spg on the defensive end of the floor. Jonathan Stark pours in 14.7 ppg and hands out 4.0 apg, while Jay Hook rounds out a stellar scoring trio with 13.7 ppg.
The Green Wave have had a knack for pulling out close games on their home floor this season, but they'll have their hands full against the first-place Miners, who have stepped up on the road.
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