Miners to Pursue Continued Road Perfection at Old Dominion
Feb. 7, 2014
The UTEP men's basketball team will try to start 4-0 in conference road games for the first time since 1956 when it plays at Conference USA newcomer Old Dominion Saturday.
The Monarchs boast a proud basketball tradition with 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, all since 1980. Last year, however, was a season that ODU fans would like to forget. The Monarchs went 5-25 and dismissed their head coach, Blaine Taylor.
In came Jeff Jones, who was best known for taking Virginia to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in 1995.
With largely the same cast of characters, Jones has driven the Monarchs to an 11-12 record this season, but more importantly a 5-3 mark in C-USA. Old Dominion is tied for fifth in the league standings, and most certainly eyeing a major leap forward with an upset of the Miners.
"Their coach has done a great job. They've had a tremendous turnaround from a year ago, playing basically the same players," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "They are very well coached and run a lot of good offenses. They will throw a million plays at you. They're going to play mostly man defense, but they execute it really well."
Old Dominion snapped a two-game losing streak, while winning for the sixth time in nine games, with a 69-61 triumph over UTSA on Thursday in Norfolk. Sophomore guard Aaron Bacote scored 22 points for the Monarchs. He was 11-for-13 at the line.
Old Dominion is 7-4 at home (2-1 in league play) and averaging 6,105 fans at the Constant Center.
ODU is led by Bacote, who averages 17.0 points per game. He has taken 140 foul shots in 22 games (6.4 avg.). Junior guard Dimitri Batten averages 11.4 ppg, and sophomore guard Keenan Palmore averages 11.2 ppg.
" Bacote is a great athlete. He's an all-league player," Floyd said. "He can play for anybody. He's a big-time three-point shooter. He can drive it and he leads the league in free throw attempts. He can play for Duke or North Carolina. He's that good."
Old Dominion isn't a particularly big team, as none of the Monarchs who have appeared in every game is taller than 6-7.
The Monarchs are third in C-USA in scoring defense (65.2 ppg), but last in scoring offense (64.9 ppg). ODU is also last in free throw percentage (.607).
UTEP will try to exploit the Monarchs' height disadvantage, just as it did on Thursday against East Carolina when it posted its largest rebound margin ever in a Conference USA game (42-17).
The Miners are playing a game in the state of Virginia for the first time since March 25, 2009, when they won at Richmond, 81-69, in a CBI contest.