Miners to Tackle "Fast" Tulsa on Thursday
Feb. 25, 2014
Tulsa may be the hottest team in Conference USA, winning its last five games by 10 points or more. UTEP Coach Tim Floyd knows his Miners will have their hands full in the regular season home finale on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
"Our memories of Tulsa aren't good. We were 0-2 against those guys last year," he said. "I think they're the fastest team in the league. Their guards are jets and they utilize their quickness. They play through their bigs like [coach] Danny Manning's background at Kansas and with Bill Self. Their guards play great man-to-man pressure. They score in transition. They are a very difficult matchup for us, and they're playing as well as anybody in the league."
As well as Tulsa is playing, it's easy to forget that this is still a very young Golden Hurricane squad. Six of its top seven scorers are sophomores - guard James Woodard (14.7 ppg), forward Rashad Smith (12.6 ppg), guard Shaquille Harrison (9.8 ppg), forward D'Andre Wright (7.4 ppg), guard Rashad Ray (6.0 ppg) and forward Lew Evans (5.8 ppg).
The Hurricane is first in C-USA in free throw percentage (.716) and field goal percentage defense (.382), tied for first in rebound margin (+5.9 rpg), and second in scoring offense (74.5 ppg), scoring defense (61.8 ppg) and scoring margin (+12.7 ppg) for league games only.
The Miners, meanwhile, are trying to rediscover their winning mojo after letting a nine-point second half lead slip away at Southern Miss on Saturday.
"Their depth got us," Floyd said. "Their press wore us down as the game went on. I thought we played a little fatigued late. They made big shots from the perimeter. [Aaron] Brown was terrific and wore us out. And a guy named [Matt] Bingaya, that was barely in the scouting report and had scored 78 points, drilled us for 21. I thought we didn't play in a stance [defensively] the last half of the game and that had served us well for five road games. They're a good team. They're undefeated at home. But we had an opportunity, and we didn't take advantage of the opportunity."
UTEP will honor seniors John Bohannon and Tyler Tafoya prior to Saturday's game.
Bohannon has played in 119 games for the Miners with 70 starts. He ranks second in school history with 154 blocks, second with a field goal percentage of 56.7, sixth with 773 rebounds and 22nd with 1,127 points. He has 18 double-doubles, tied for the eighth-most in school history. A two-time Conference USA Player of the Week this season, Bohannon is first on the squad in rebounding and blocks and fourth in scoring. He ranks among the Conference USA leaders in seven statistical categories for league games only. He is majoring in Political Science.
"We have admired his growth as a person and as a player," Floyd said. "I think he has benefited a great deal from this experience and we have as well, because he has been a much better player this year, much more reliable and I wish he was back for another year."
Tafoya was a member of UTEP's 2009-10 NCAA Tournament team and has been with the Miner program for the last five seasons. The El Paso native has appeared in 17 games for the Miners and made his first career start against Rice on Feb. 29, 2012. He is majoring in Communication.
"Tyler has been a real spirit guy for our team, a real cheerleader and a guy who has had a positive attitude day in and day out, which is hard to do when you don't play much," Floyd said. "He's a guy I would recommend for somebody to hire one day. I don't know what he wants to do, but he'd be a good hire because he's a team guy."