The Battle Begins on Sunday
Nov. 16, 2013
UTEP (1-1) takes on West Alabama (1-1) in a Battle 4 Atlantis home game on Sunday afternoon in the Haskins Center.
The Miners will join Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee,USC, Villanova, Wake Forest and Xavier in the Battle 4 Atlantis Nov. 28-30 on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
This is the first matchup between UTEP and West Alabama, a Division II school located in Livingston, Ala.
Sunday's game marks the start of a three-game homestand that also features games versus Colorado State Tuesday (Nov. 19) and NMSU Saturday (Nov. 23). Both were 2013 NCAA Tournament teams.
The Tigers were 10-16 last season and 6-12 in the Gulf South Conference (eighth place). West Alabama has eight returning lettermen and three returning starters.
The Tigers' top returnee is senior guard/forward Sandy Underwood, who averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds last season. He was named to the preseason Gulf South Conference team. Underwood scored 20+ points eight times in 2012-13 with five double-doubles.
West Alabama also has a couple of impact transfers in junior forwards Cordell Pope (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC) and Lleon Tillman (Olney Central College).
West Alabama is 1-1 with a win over Stillman (105-75) and a loss at Montevallo (85-67). Underwood is averaging 28.5 points per game and senior guard Desmond Raymond is averaging 14.5 ppg.
Mark Downey is in his first season as the Tigers' head coach. He was previously the head coach at Independence Community College (1999-2001), Arkansas Tech (2006-10) and Charleston (2010-13). He was the head coach at Independence Community College at the same time that Keitha Adams (current UTEP women's coach) was the women's coach there.
Downey also played Kentucky player Tommy Kron in the 2006 motion picture "Glory Road," the story of the 1966 Texas Western (now UTEP) national championship team.
Sunday's Miner Legend is Johnny Melvin, a star on the 1991-92 team that reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Melvin lettered for the Miners from 1988-89 and 1990-93 and ranks 21st in school history with 1,142 points. He is tied for fifth in school history in steals (154), and tied for 10th in assists (270).