GAME NOTES: With precious time winding down in the regular season, the Miners of Texas-El Paso get set to host the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in a key Conference USA showdown inside the Don Haskins Center.
These teams are two of five that entered the week separated by only one game atop the league standings. Tulsa swept both meetings last season and owns a 30-17 lead in the all-time series with UTEP. This is the only scheduled matchup between the two in 2013-14 and the stakes are fairly high, considering the top four teams will earn double byes in the Conference USA Tournament which runs from March 11-15 in El Paso.
Tulsa has gotten hot of late, as it heads into this contest seeking a sixth consecutive victory after notching a 77-65 win at FIU last Saturday. Following this tilt, the Golden Hurricane will conclude the regular season with a pair of games next week against UTSA and North Texas.
This marks the final home game of the season for UTEP. The Miners have split their last four contests after putting together a season-best, eight-game win streak. They are coming off last Saturday's 77-68 setback at Southern Miss and will travel to North Texas and UTSA next week to close out their schedule.
Tulsa has emerged victorious in each of its last three road games, and has won by 10 or more points in every game during the team's current five-game win streak. In their last outing, the Golden Hurricane blew past FIU with an 18-5 run to start the second half, and they went on to shoot 54 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes. Shaquille Harrison led the way with 17 points to go along with seven rebounds, five steals and five assists. Tim Peete added 12 points, while James Woodard and Brandon Swannegan (nine rebounds) each scored 11. Despite having a young roster, head coach Danny Manning has not been stingy when it comes to playing time as six of the team's top seven scorers are sophomores. Woodard, a 39 percent 3-point shooter, headlines the bunch with team-best averages of 14.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per tilt.
UTEP has managed to scrape by just fine since leading scorer McKenzie Moore (13.1 ppg) was kicked off the team in early-January for disciplinary reasons along with two others. The team's strength is in the front court, where Vince Hunter (12.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and John Bohannon (11.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg) are both shooting 57 percent or better from the floor while also manning the boards. Fellow forward Julian Washburn (13.0 ppg) helps stretch the floor, as he is shooting a team-best 38.1 percent from out on the perimeter (40-of-105). However, the Miners' latest contest followed a similar pattern as they coughed up a big second-half lead and lost for the third straight time in Hattiesburg. Hunter led all scorers with 26 points in the loss, while Washburn and Bohannon each finished with 12.
Tulsa has certainly stepped up its play over the last few weeks, but the Miners also figure to turn in an inspired performance in their final home game of the season.
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