Miners to Send Out Lone Senior McCulley in Home Finale Against Rice
Feb. 28, 2012
UTEP (14-14, 7-7 C-USA) hosts Rice (16-13, 7-7 C-USA) in a game crucial for Conference USA Tournament seeding on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Miners and the Owls are tied for seventh place in the league standings with two games remaining. UTEP will conclude the C-USA slate at SMU on Saturday, while Rice will host crosstown foe Houston.
The Miners still could be seeded anywhere from fifth to eighth in next week's C-USA Tournament depending on how this week's games unfold. The tournament is slated for March 7-10 at the FedExForum in Memphis.
UTEP plays its final regular season home game on Wednesday. The Miners are 11-4 in the Don Haskins Center in 2011-12, including 6-1 in C-USA play. UTEP has won 23 of its last 25 C-USA regular season home games dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Wednesday also marks the final home game for senior forward Gabriel McCulley. He has played in 130 games for the Miners, third-most in school history, and collected 743 points, 469 rebounds, 127 assists, 58 blocks and 88 steals.
The Owls have 16 wins this season, their most in five years. Rice has gone 3-3 since beating UTEP on Feb. 1 at Tudor Fieldhouse with wins over Houston (79-71), SMU (43-39) and UCF (83-74), and losses to East Carolina (82-68), Tulsa (69-50) and Southern Miss (58-56).
In its most recent action, Rice scored two points in the final three minutes and lost 58-56 at Southern Miss on Saturday as Jonathan Mills made two free throws with 0.6 seconds left for the winning margin.
Guard Dylan Ennis led the Owls with 18 points and 10 rebounds at Southern Miss and was named the co-Conference USA Freshman of the Week.
Rice is led by junior forward Arsalan Kazemi, who averages 12.3 points and 10.4 rebounds. Kazemi ranks 14th nationally in double-doubles (15), 15th in rebounding and 26th in steals (2.1 avg.).
The Owls are 5-6 on the road this season, including 3-4 in C-USA play. Rice has lost four of its last five conference road games after starting the slate 2-0 with victories at SMU (68-52) and Tulane (50-49).
The Miners lead the series 14-10 and have won 10 of the last 13 meetings between the schools. UTEP is 9-2 all-time versus Rice at the Don Haskins Center. Rice's last victory in El Paso came on Jan. 18, 2003 by a score of 91-63.
UTEP's Tim Floyd will be coaching against Rice's Ben Braun for the 11th time on Wednesday. Floyd is 6-4 against Braun-led squads, with six of the previous matchups taking place when Floyd was at USC and Braun was at Cal. Another transpired during the 1991-92 season when Floyd was at New Orleans and Braun was coaching at Eastern Michigan.
THE LAST MEETING
Reserve guard Julian DeBose nailed a jumper with 0.2 seconds left -- his only field goal of the game -- as Rice handed UTEP a 77-75 loss on Feb. 1 at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The game-winner negated a fine comeback by the Miners, who crawled out of a seven- point hole in the final three minutes and took a 73-72 lead on two free throws by Gabriel McCulley with 24 seconds remaining.
DeBose wasn't the only unlikely hero for Rice, as freshman forward Jarelle Reischel scored 20 points -- one shy of his career high. Reischel filled up the stat sheet, adding six re- bounds and five steals while making 7-of-12 shots, 3-of-3 three pointers and 3-of-3 free throws.
The Owls also received solid play inside from Kazemi (20 points/nine rebounds) and 7-2 Omar Oraby (11 points/eight rebounds/ four blocks in 17 minutes).
Four players -- McCulley (23 points), John Bohannon (18), Julian Washburn (16) and Perez (14) -- combined to score 71 of UTEP's 75 points. McCulley (10 rebounds) and Bo- hannon (12) both had double-doubles.
UTEP trailed by 10 points (37-27) with un-der four minutes remaining in the first half before mounting a 13-4 run to pull within a point (41-40) at the intermission. Late in the second half, five straight points by the Owls -- a three-pointer by Reischel and jumper by Connor Frizzelle -- lifted them into the short- lived seven-point lead.
The game featured 10 ties and 26 lead changes.
NOTES FROM THE UCF GAME
The Miners had no steals in a game for just the second time since 1982. The only other occurrence was on Jan. 29, 1994 versus New Mexico in the Haskins Center ... UCF's three turnovers were the fewest by a UTEP opponent since Princeton also had three on Dec. 28, 1996 at the DHC ... UTEP had no starters in double figure scoring for the second time this season (Stephen F. Austin) ... the last time the Miners had no starters with double-digit points in a conference game was on March 6, 2004 at Boise State ... UTEP lost for just the second time in 23 games under coach Tim Floyd where the opponent shot less than 40 percent from the field ... the Miners trailed the entire game after falling behind 6-0 in the first two and a half minutes, ending a string of 97 consecutive games that they led in at one point ... UTEP dropped to 2-12 this season when shooting between 40 and 49 percent.
MINERS PLAY FOURTH GAME ON ODDEST OF DATES
UTEP is 1-2 all-time in games played on Feb. 29. The Miners lost home games to Arizona State in 1960 (84-88) and Fresno State in 1996 (88-87), and won at Colorado State in 1992 (86-68).
TOUGH TO BEAT ON "SENIOR NIGHT"
The Miners have won their final regular season home game in seven of the last eight years. UTEP's last loss on "Senior Night" came on March 1, 2007 to sixth-ranked Memphis, 78-67.
LONE STAR DOMINANCE
The Miners have registered a 17-1 mark versus their fellow C-USA institutions from the state of Texas at home since 2005 (6-1 versus Houston, 4-0 versus Rice, 7-0 versus SMU). The only loss came to the Cougars, 94-86, on Jan. 14, 2009.
WASHBURN JOINS 300 CLUB
With eight points at UCF on Saturday, Julian Washburn became the eighth Miner freshman to score 300 in a season.
Season Player Points
With the 2011-12 season winding down, UTEP has four players averaging between 11 and 12 points per game. Sophomore center John Bohannon has averaged a team-leading 14.0 ppg in Conference USA games and has moved to second on the squad in overall scoring (11.4 ppg) behind sophomore guard Michael Perez (11.7 ppg).
Eight different players have led UTEP in scoring in games this season, the highest total since nine did so during the 2003-04 campaign.
REBOUNDING A BIG PART OF HOME SUCCESS
The Miners are 6-1 in C-USA home games and 1-6 in C-USA road games. They have outrebounded five of their seven league opponents at home (they tied Tulsa 38-38 on Feb. 8). On the road, they have been outrebounded in five of seven league games.
UTEP's rebound margin in home conference games is +6.6 per game.
The Miners are 21-1 under coach Tim Floyd when outrebounding teams in the Haskins Center, with the lone blemish a 73-64 setback to UTSA in the 2011-12 season opener. UTEP has won 22 straight home games against C-USA opposition when controlling the glass dating back to the 2006-07 season.
TOO MANY OPPORTUNITIES
Over the last three games, the Miners have been outscored 39-14 in second chance points. In the previous 10 contests -- all Conference USA games -- UTEP had a 89-56 scoring advantage in the statistical category.
UTEP has given up 33 offensive rebounds over the last two games. UCF's 18 offensive boards on Saturday tied for the second-most by a Miner opponent this season.
TOO FEW OPPORTUNITIES
UTEP went to the line six times at UCF on Saturday, tying its low total in a Conference USA game. The Miners also took six foul shots at Tulsa on Jan. 11. Prior to that, the last time UTEP shot fewer free throws in a league game was on Feb. 28, 2002 against SMU (five).