MINERS
Miners, Memphis to Battle on Saturday Afternoon in the Haskins Center

Christian Polk


Christian Polk

Feb. 25, 2011

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UTEP (20-8, 8-5 C-USA) and Memphis (21-7, 9-4 C-USA) do battle before a national television (ESPN2) audience on Saturday at the Don Haskins Center. Tip-off is slated for 1:05 p.m. MT. Both teams remain in the thick of the Conference USA title chase, with the Tigers tied for first place with Southern Miss and UAB, and the Miners a game off the pace.

The Miners have three regular season games remaining before hosting the Conference USA Tournament March 9-12. On the docket for next week are a home game versus Marshall (March 2) and a road date with SMU (March 5). The top four teams in the league earn opening round byes in the C-USA Tournament. UTEP is currently tied for fourth place in the league standings with SMU and Tulsa. The combined record of the Miners' final three C-USA regular season opponents is 57-26.

UTEP is 15-2 at home this season but dropped its last game at the Haskins Center, 73-68 to UCF on Monday. The Miners had won 15 straight games on their home floor before being upset by the Knights. UTEP will be playing its fourth game in eight days on Saturday after power outages caused by arctic temperatures in El Paso forced the postponement of the UCF game from Feb. 2 to Feb. 21.

The Tigers topped Houston, 69-58, in their last action at the FedExForum on Tuesday. Freshman forward Tarik Black scored 16 points and junior swingman Wesley Witherspoon added 13 off the bench for Memphis, which reserved 24 points from its reserves.

The Tigers have won five of six games since being saddled with their only losing streak of the season from Jan. 29-Feb. 2. The lone loss during that span was a 67-52 upset at the hands of the Rice Owls on Feb. 19 in Houston.

Memphis is averaging 73.9 points per game (second in C-USA) with nine players collecting at least six points per contest. Leading the balanced effort are freshman guard Will Barton (12.7 ppg) and Witherspoon (11.1 ppg). Seven Tigers have scored 20 points in a game this season, the highest total among C-USA teams.

The Tigers have dominated at the FedExForum this season (16-2 record) but are 4-4 on the road, including 3-3 in C-USA action. Memphis, however, owns impressive wins at Southern Miss (76-75), UAB (76-73 in OT) and Gonzaga (62-58). The Tigers came back from 18 down to saddle Southern Miss with its lone setback to date at Reed Green Coliseum.

The Tigers lead the series 8-2. Last year the Miners snapped a six-game losing streak in the series with a 72-67 victory at the FedExForum. UTEP is 1-3 versus Memphis in El Paso with a win during the 1971-72 season (85-79), and losses during the 1977-78 (71-65), 2006-07 (78-67) and 2008-09 (70-63) campaigns.

 

 

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