Miners Looking to Bounce Back Against Mercer on Sunday
Nov. 13, 2010
UTEP (0-1) looks to bounce back from a season-opening 66-61 loss to Pacific with a home game versus Mercer (1-0) on Sunday at noon. The Miners and Bears are two of the 12 teams participating in the 2010 Legends Classic. The others are Albany, Bowling Green, Detroit, Gardner-Webb, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Niagara, Syracuse, Western Carolina and William & Mary.
UTEP will play two home games in the tournament -- hosting Western Carolina on Nov. 20 -- before joining Georgia Tech, Michigan and Syracuse in the championship rounds Nov. 26-27 in Atlantic City, N.J. All championship round games will be nationally televised on HDNet.
Produced by the Gazelle Group, the Legends Classic (www.legendsclassic.com) is in its fourth year of existence. UTEP is the first Conference USA team to participate in the event. Past champions of the Legends Classic were Texas in 2007, Pittsburgh in 2008 and Florida in 2009.
The Bears were 16-17 last season, but made a surprise run to the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Mercer lost a pair of All-League performers in James Florence (17.7 ppg) and Daniel Emerson (15.4 ppg/12.0 rpg) but returns 10 players from a year ago, including senior guard Jeff Smith (11.6 ppg/3.6 apg in `09-'10).
Mercer opened its season with a 67-44 rout of Oglethorpe University on Friday. The Bears shot 49 percent from the floor, made 12-of-16 free throws and held Oglethorpe to a .293 field goal percentage and .200 (6-for-30) three-point field goal percentage. Mercer outrebounded Oglethorpe 45-24 and forced 21 turnovers, overcoming 25 giveaways of its own. Junior forward Justin Cecil, a transfer from Central Florida CC, paced the Bears with 14 points.
Mercer is a school of 8,200 located in Macon, Ga. The Bears are a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Sunday's game marks the first meeting between UTEP and Mercer. The Miners are 1-0 all-time versus teams currently in the Atlantic Sun Conference with an 85-66 victory over Lipscomb in opening round action of the postseason NIT on March 14, 2006 at the Don Haskins Center.
MINERS DROP 66-61 DECISION TO PACIFIC IN OPENER
Sam Willard had a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Rivera scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half as Pacific rallied to beat UTEP, 66-61, on Friday in the Haskins Center.
The Tigers trailed 36-25 at the half, but made up the deficit in the first five and a half minutes of the second period. A three-pointer by Rivera at the 14:36 mark gave Pacific its first lead (40-38) since it was 13-12 eight minutes into the game. After Willard extended the lead to three points (45-42) on a three-pointer with 11:08 to play, the Miners regrouped to go ahead 53-49 on a Gabriel McCulley free throw with 7:07 remaining.
Back-to-back three pointers by Pat Eveland and Jose Rivera lifted Pacific into a 55-53 lead with 5:49 left, and the game was nip-and-tuck over the next four minutes before Demetrece Young buried a three-pointer at the 1:44 mark, breaking a 59-59 tie and giving the Tigers the lead for good.
Terrell Smith followed with a tip dunk and Young scored a layup as Pacific pushed its lead to 66-59 with 32 seconds left. McCulley's free throws with 21 seconds to play completed the scoring.
The Miners were outscored 41-25 in the second half, making just 8-of-28 shots while Pacific caught fire, shooting 53.3 percent in the second period including 8-for-13 from three-point range.
A 10-0 run in the first half put the Miners ahead 26-16 and electrified the sellout crowd of 12,222 --- the first capacity crowd for a UTEP home opener since 1986. UTEP shot 55.2 percent in the opening period in taking a 36-25 lead into the locker room.
FLOYD IN FIRST YEAR AS UTEP'S HEAD COACH
Tim Floyd was named the 18th head coach in UTEP basketball history on March 30, 2010. He was an assistant coach for the Miners under the legendary Don Haskins from 1978-86. Floyd is in his 17th season as a collegiate head coach and has compiled a 328-181 record. His previous coaching stops include Idaho (1986-88), New Orleans (1988-94), Iowa State (1994-98) and USC (2005-09). He was also head coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls (1998-2002) and New Orleans Hornets (2003-04).
Floyd's teams have made 11 postseason tournament appearances, including eight trips to the NCAAs and three to the NIT.
NOTING FLOYD'S FIRST STOP AT UTEP
During his eight seasons as a UTEP assistant (1978-86), Tim Floyd helped the Miners to a 164-73 record -- including 76-20 over his last three years on the bench. UTEP made NIT appearances in 1980, 1981 and 1983, and earned NCAA Tournament berths in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
Floyd recruited the majority of the players responsible for the Miners making an unprecedented seven straight NCAA Tournaments from 1984-90. UTEP captured five consecutive Western Athletic Tournament regular season titles from 1983-87, and won the WAC Tournament championship in 1984, 1986 and 1989. UTEP was the seventh-winningest program in the nation during the `80s with a .735 winning percentage (227-82) behind North Carolina, UNLV, Georgetown, DePaul, Temple and Syracuse.
FLOYD AND REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS
Tim Floyd has posted an all-time record of 43-17 in regular season tournaments, including 15-1 as the tournament host. The lone loss was to Detroit, 67-56, in the championship game of the Iowa State Holiday Classic on Dec. 21, 1998 in Ames. Floyd's Iowa State Cyclones knocked off UTEP, 58-48, in the ISU Holiday Classic on Dec. 22, 1997.
FLOYD VERSUS MERCER
Tim Floyd is 0-1 versus Mercer in his collegiate coaching career. His 18th-ranked USC Trojans lost to the Bears, 96-81, in their `07-08 season opener in Los Angeles. Two seniors on this year's Mercer team, guard Mark Hall and senior Brian Mills, both came off the bench and played in that game. Hall had four points and an assist in six minutes, and Mills contributed 10 points and three rebounds in 17 minutes.
IT'S BEEN A WHILE
The last time UTEP hosted an in-season tournament game other than in the Sun Bowl Invitational was Dec. 2-3, 1988, when the Miners knocked off Alcorn State (84-53) and Jackson State (85-54) in succession in the Metromobile Invitational.
COULD BE A GOOD OMEN
The Miners haven't started a season 0-2 since 1998-99, when they dropped their first two games en route to a 16-12 overall record. That was the final season for Hall of Fame head coach Don Haskins.
FLOYD IN SEASON ONE
Tim Floyd posted a 16-14 record in his first season at Idaho (1986-87), 19-11 in his first season at New Orleans (1988-89), 23-11 in his first season at Iowa State (1994-95) and 17-13 in his first season at USC (2005-06). Idaho raised its win total by 5 in Floyd's first year, Iowa State by 9 and USC by 5. New Orleans was 21-11 the season prior to Floyd's arrival.
UTEP IN THE Don Haskins CENTER
The Miners are in their 35th season playing in the Don Haskins Center and have compiled a record of 446-133 in the facility. UTEP hasn't lost back-to-back home games since January of 2009 when it fell to Houston (94-86) and Tulsa (78-70) in conference play.
STONE POSTS FIRST COLLEGE DOUBLE-DOUBLE
Senior guard Julyan Stone entered the season with 14 career double-figure scoring games and three games with 10 or more rebounds, but never had he posted a double-double in 103 collegiate contests. That changed in the season opener versus Pacific when he collected 12 points and 11 boards. While he hasn't been a big-time scorer historically, he has tallied 19, 14 and 12 points in the Miners' last three season openers.
Stone pulled down his 500th rebound as a Miner against Pacific and now has 504 career boards. He has led UTEP in rebounding 23 times.
Stone has 534 career assists, needing four to tie Memphis' Antonio Anderson for fourth place on the all-time C-USA list.
CULPEPPER GOES QUIET IN SECOND HALF OF OPENER
Senior guard Randy Culpepper was held scoreless in the second half of the opener against Pacific after putting up 13 points in the first 20 minutes. He was 0-for-6 from the field in the second half, including 0-for-3 from three-point range. By making one triple versus the Tigers, Culpepper passed USF's Reggie Kohn into sole possession of 10th place on the Conference USA career three-point field goals list. Culpepper has 253 trifectas, one behind UAB's Robert Vaden and Louisville's Taquan Dean who are tied for eighth place (254).
With 303 made free throws in his career, Culpepper is three away from tying David Van Dyke for 15th place on the all-time UTEP list. With 1,677 career points, he needs 13 to tie Marquette's Brian Wardle for 14th place on the all-time C-USA chart, and 14 to tie Southern Miss' Jeremy Wise and Marquette's Travis Diener for 12th place.
CULPEPPER LEADS THE MINERS IN SCORING (AGAIN)
Randy Culpepper was UTEP's top scorer for the 32nd time against Pacific, finishing with 13 points. The 13 points, however, were the fewest by a Miner player to lead the team since Culpepper scored 12 points in a 76-65 loss at Tulsa on Feb. 7, 2009.
MINERS HAD THEIR OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES IN THE OPENER
UTEP scored 61 points in the loss to Pacific on Friday, its fewest in a season opener since a 59-57 loss to New Mexico State on Nov. 13, 1998. The Miners' second-half field goal percentage (.286) was their lowest in a period since shooting 28.1 percent in the first half of a 75-65 loss at Houston on Jan. 13 of last season.
REBOUNDING EFFORT WAS A MIXED BAG
The Miners were expected to have their difficulties on the boards this season after losing Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie (combined 14.8 rpg in `09-10) from last year's squad. And while UTEP enjoyed a 21-16 edge on the glass in the first half of the opener versus Pacific, the Tigers controlled the boards to the tune of 23-15 over the final 20 minutes.
Without a dominant inside player on this year's team, the Miners will have to get the kind of rebounding production from their backcourt like they did against Pacific, when Julyan Stone and Christian Polk teamed to pull down 18 boards. In fact, 23 of UTEP's 34 individual rebounds (68 percent) came courtesy of the guards versus the Tigers.
UTEP SIGNS EIGHT FOR 2011-12 SEASON
Eight talented student-athletes -- five from high school and three from the junior college ranks -- recently signed national letters of intent to play for the Miners beginning with the 2011-12 season. The high school products are 6-0 guard D'Von Campbell (Arlington, Texas/Bowie HS), 6-0 guard C.J. Cooper (La Verne, Calif./Lutheran HS), 6-9 forward Cedrick Lang (Sioux Falls, S.D./O'Gorman HS), 6-5 forward Darius Nelson (Sacramento, Calif./Sheldon HS) and 6-7 forward/guard Jalen Ragland (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe HS). The junior college imports are 6-0 guard Mitch Marquis (Tyler JC), 6-7 forward Malcolm Moore (Tyler JC) and 6-6 forward Dazmond Starke (Eastern Arizona College).
The Miners' November signees will join 6-0 guard Jacques Streeter (Los Angeles, Calif./Fremont HS/Findlay Prep/Cal State Fullerton) and 6-7 forward Julian Washburn (Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville HS) as additions to the 2011-12 roster. Both are currently enrolled in school.
MINERS WIN A PAIR OF EXHIBITIONS
UTEP polished off a pair of Division II teams, Eastern New Mexico (80-76) and Texas A&M-Kingsville (75-48) in the preseason portion of its 2010-11 schedule. The Miners shot 47.3 percent from the field, 35 percent from three-point range and 57.1 percent from the line in the exhibitions while limiting opponents to a .328 field goal percentage and .358 three-point field goal percentage.
UTEP had an average rebound margin of +10.0 in the exhibitions and forced 20.5 turnovers per game. Senior guard Randy Culpepper averaged 16.0 ppg, senior center Claude Britten 14.0 ppg and senior guard Christian Polk 12.0 ppg. Senior forward Jeremy Williams was the team rebounding leader with a 6.5 average.
MINERS RETURN 10 PLAYERS FROM C-USA TITLE TEAM
UTEP welcomes back three starters and eight letterwinners -- including 10 of the 15 players who saw action a year ago -- as it chases a second straight Conference USA championship. The Miners were 26-7 in 2009-10 and won the league's regular season crown with a 15-1 mark. UTEP advanced to the championship game of the Conference USA Tournament before making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005.
The Miners return 67.1 percent (1,667-of-2,484) of their points, 55.7 percent (620-of-1,113) of their rebounds and 72.1 percent (352-of-488) of their assists from a team that won 17 of 19 games versus C-USA opponents last season.
The 2010-11 Miner roster features eight seniors -- Claude Britten, Randy Culpepper, Isaac Gordon, Eric Munoz, Christian Polk, Wayne Portalatin, Julyan Stone and Jeremy Williams -- tying the largest composition in school history. The Miners also had eight seniors during the 2005-06 campaign.
The eight seniors have combined to play in 615 Division I games, making UTEP the most experienced team in the country this season.
Britten, Culpepper, Munoz, Portalatin and Stone are all in their fourth season at UTEP. A sixth player, Gabriel McCulley, is in his fourth season with the Miners as well, although he was a medical redshirt in 2009-10 and has two years of eligibility remaining.
MINERS HAVE PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE
The 10 returnees on UTEP's 2010-11 roster have combined to play in 695 Division I games (Randy Culpepper 104, Julyan Stone 104, Christian Polk 85, Wayne Portalatin 83, Claude Britten 83, Isaac Gordon 74, Gabriel McCulley 72, Jeremy Williams 61, Eric Munoz 21, Tyler Tafoya eight), and made 284 starts (Stone 95, Culpepper 54, Polk 42, Williams 37, Britten 18, Portalatin 17, Gordon 12, McCulley nine).
MINERS PUTTING AN EMPHASIS ON DEFENSE
While UTEP was a stout defensive team a year ago -- finishing 13th nationally in field goal percentage defense while yielding 64.6 points per game -- the Miners figure to take things to a whole new level under coach Tim Floyd. In 509 collegiate games, Floyd's teams have allowed less than 70 points 339 times, less than 60 points 172 times and less than 50 points 49 times. Floyd's squads are 264-75 when yielding fewer than 70 points, a .779 winning percentage. Conversely, his teams are 216-31 (.874) when scoring 70 points or more.
UTEP TO HOST 2011 CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP
For the first time in 21 years, the Don Haskins Center will be the site of a league tournament as UTEP has been selected to host the 2011 Conference USA Championship. The event is slated for March 9-12, with the title game to be televised live on CBS on Saturday, March 12 at 9:30 a.m. MT. UTEP hosted the Western Athletic Conference championship in 1984, 1985 and 1990, reaching the final three times and winning the event in 1984 and 1990.
PRESEASON HONORS FOR CULPEPPER
Reigning Conference USA Player of the Year Randy Culpepper is the preseason choice for the 2011 edition of the award. The senior guard is also one of 50 players on the watch list for the John R. Wooden Award, presented to the top player in college basketball.
Culpepper is one of four C-USA player of the year winners to return the following season since the award's inception in 1996. The others are Cincinnati's Danny Fortson (repeat winner in 1996 & 1997), DePaul's Quentin Richardson (won the award in 1999 and returned for his sophomore season in 1999-2000) and Cincinnati's Steve Logan (repeat winner in 2001 & 2002).
CULPEPPER RANKS SIXTH AMONG RETURNING SCORERS
Randy Culpepper put up 1,664 points in his first three seasons with the Miners. Only five active Division I players had scored more points heading into the 2010-11 campaign.
Division I Top Returning Scorers
STONE IS NATION'S CAREER ASSIST LEADER
Senior guard Julyan Stone dished out 530 assists in his first three seasons at UTEP, more than any other active Division I player entering the 2010-11 campaign.
Division I Active Assist Leaders
WILLIAMS SPENT THE SUMMER ABROAD
Senior forward Jeremy Williams was one of 11 NCAA Division I players on the "Reach USA" team that played nine games in China this summer. "Reach USA" posted a 6-3 mark on the tour while playing seven games versus the Bayi Rockets, a team from the Chinese Basketball Association, and two versus the Russian Peak All-Stars. Williams averaged 8.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.7 blocks on the trip. He made 31-of-65 field goal attempts (.477) and 6-of-8 free throws (.750).
Williams is a preseason second team All-Conference USA player, as selected by the league's head coaches.
MINERS TO TACKLE CHALLENGING NON-CONFERENCE SLATE
UTEP's 2010-11 non-conference schedule is built for a defending conference champion. The Miners could play as many as nine games versus teams that posted 20+ wins last season prior to the C-USA opener versus Tulsa on Jan. 5.
In addition to Pacific (23-12 last season), UTEP either will or could face Western Carolina (22-12), Georgia Tech (23-13), Syracuse (30-5), Stephen F. Austin (23-9), BYU (30-6) and Sam Houston State (25-8) in the opening two months of the season, as well as the customary two games versus I-10 rival NM State, which finished 22-12 a year ago. The schedule also features matchups with an 18-game winner (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and a 19-victory squad (Texas Tech on Dec. 18). In all, nine 2010 postseason teams line the Miners' non-conference slate.
WHAT THE PRESEASON MAGS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE MINERS
UTEP is picked to finish second in Conference USA this season by The Sporting News and USA Today Sports Weekly, third by Athlon Sports and Lindy's, and fourth by Blue Ribbon Forecast. Randy Culpepper was tabbed to preseason All-Conference teams by all five outlets. Julyan Stone was pegged a second team All-Conference player by USA Today Sports Weekly, and Jeremy Williams was chosen third team all-league by Lindy's.
UTEP WINS FIRST OUTRIGHT CONFERENCE TITLE IN 23 YEARS
UTEP captured its first outright conference championship since 1987 last season. The Miners have won seven undisputed league crowns in their basketball history, including in 1941 (Border Conference), 1957 (Border Conference), 1970 (Western Athletic Conference), 1984 (WAC), 1985 (WAC) and 1987 (WAC).
Overall UTEP has won 12 conference titles, including five that it shared with other teams in 1959 (Border Conference), 1983 (WAC), 1986 (WAC), 1992 (WAC) and 2004 (WAC).
MORE ON THE MINERS' STORIED BASKETBALL HISTORY
The Miners have posted an all-time record of 1,237-933. To this day, UTEP is the only Division I school in the state of Texas to win a national championship in men's basketball with the storied 1966 title. UTEP has made 28 postseason tournament appearances, including 17 trips to the NCAAs. The Miners have played in the postseason in six of the last seven years (NCAA 2004, 2005 & 2010; NIT 2006; CBI 2008 & 2009).
Here are some other highlights from the Miners' spectacular 2009-10 season.
- The Miners' 26 wins tied for the third-top total in school history and fell just two short of the record set by the 1966 national championship team
- UTEP went 15-1 in Conference USA play to set a school record for conference wins
- The Miners made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years and 17th overall
- UTEP earned top-25 rankings in both polls for the first time in 18 years
- The Miners won 16 straight games late in the season, tying the second-longest streak in school history
- UTEP reeled off seven consecutive road victories in conference play. The seven straight road wins tied the school standard established by the 1966 national champions
- The Miners' 26 wins tied for the third-top total in school history and fell just two short of the record set by the 1966 national championship team
- UTEP was one of only nine Division I teams with one loss or fewer in conference play
- UTEP set a school record for steals (288) while posting its lowest defensive field goal percentage (.392) since 1974
The Miners will host Western Carolina on Saturday at 8:30 p.m., continuing regional round play of the Legends Classic. It is the second game of a doubleheader with the UTEP women, who will face Eastern New Mexico at 6:05 p.m.
Western Carolina opened its season with an 87-64 loss at Clemson on Friday. The Catamounts were 22-12 in 2009-10, establishing a school record for Division I wins. They posted 11 victories in Southern Conference action and participated in the collegeinsider.com postseason tournament.