UTEP Looks to Bounce Back at SMU
Feb. 29, 2008
UTEP (16-10, 7-6 C-USA) shoots for a second straight Conference USA road win on Saturday at SMU (8-18, 2-11 C-USA). The Miners won at Marshall, 79-76, on Feb. 20 to snap an 11-game road losing skid in league play.
UTEP hasn't won two C-USA road games in a row since February 2006, when it put together back-to-back triumphs at Tulsa and Southern Miss. The Miners are 6-15 in Conference USA road games since joining the league for the 2005-06 season, including 2-12 over the last two years. UTEP, however, is 2-0 when playing at SMU as a member of C-USA, and hasn't lost to the Mustangs in Dallas since Jan. 30, 2003.
SMU and Marshall are the only teams UTEP hasn't lost to since joining C-USA. The Miners are 5-0 versus the Mustangs and 3-0 versus the Thundering Herd.
SMU has lost five straight games and 13 of its last 15. The Mustangs are 7-9 at home this season, including 2-4 in league action with wins over UCF (69-67 in overtime) on Jan. 26 and Rice (68-53) on Feb. 9. SMU dropped an 82-54 decision at East Carolina on Wednesday.
UTEP is coming off an 88-81 setback to UAB at the Don Haskins Center on Wednesday, its first loss in seven C-USA home games. The Miners are 3-8 on the road, including 1-5 within the league. UTEP beat SMU in El Paso, 79-66, in the league opener for both teams on Jan. 9.
"We know SMU is going to play zone," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "We have to be prepared and patient, like we were the first time we played against them."
Freshman forward Papa Dia had 16 points and six rebounds in SMU's 82-54 loss at East Carolina on Wednesday. The Mustangs shot 32.1 percent in the first half in falling behind 47-22, and trailed by as many as 33 points in the second half.
Dia is averaging 10.0 points and a team-leading 6.7 rebounds this season. Senior guard Jon Killen is averaging 12.4 ppg, and junior center Bamba Fall is averaging 11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 2.2 bpg. Killen is second in C-USA in assists (4.9 apg) and Fall is third in blocked shots.
The Ponies are 10th in the league in scoring defense (70.9 ppg) and 11th in scoring offense (63.5 ppg).
UTEP leads the series 17-13 and has beaten SMU nine straight times. The Mustangs have enjoyed a 7-5 advantage in games played in Dallas, although the Miners have won the last four matchups between the schools at Moody Coliseum.
UTEP and SMU are meeting twice in league play for the ninth season in a row, although this marks just the third time during that stretch that the first meeting was in El Paso (the other occurrences were during the 2000-01 and 2003-04 seasons).