Miners Ready to Take Another Crack at NMSU
Dec. 8, 2011
Following a 12-day layoff between games, UTEP (1-4) will close the month of December with nine contests in 19 days. The Miners begin the grueling stretch with a Sunday matinee against I-10 rival NM State. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. MT.
The Miners have played five games. No other Conference USA team has played fewer than seven entering Sunday, as Tulsa leads the way with 11 games in the books.
UTEP and NM State will wrap up this year's edition of the SONIC Battle of I-10 Rivalry Series after the Aggies topped the Miners in Las Cruces, 89-73, on Nov. 19.
UTEP will retire Nolan Richardson's #42 at halftime of Sunday's game. He played for the Miners from 1960-63 before enjoying a distinguished college coaching career.
SCOUTING NM STATE
The Aggies have played five games since their win over the Miners on Nov. 19, posting a 2-3 mark with victories over Central Michigan (78-49) and San Francisco (81-71) in the Great Alaska Shootout. They lost twice to Southern Miss during that stretch -- once in Alaska (80-72) and also in Hattiesburg (74-66) -- and dropped an 83-76 decision to Arizona at the Pan American Center. NMSU will be playing its first game in a week on Sunday.
Senior forward Wendell McKines (18.1 ppg), sophomore guard Christian Kabongo (16.1 ppg) and senior guard Hernst Laroche (10.3 ppg) all have double figure scoring averages. McKines rated 13th in the country in double-doubles through the games of Dec. 4 with four. The Aggies held national top-100 rankings in scoring offense (76.6 ppg, 61st) and rebound margin (+5.5 avg., 68th).
NM State holds a 102-100 edge in the series ledger. One team has swept the season series in seven of the last nine years. NMSU won both matchups during the 2002-03 and 2006-07 seasons, and the Miners swept the Aggies during the 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2010-11 campaigns.
UTEP has a 59-46 advantage in games played in El Paso. The Miners have won eight of the last 11 matchups between the schools in the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP's Tim Floyd is 3-1 all-time when coaching against NMSU's Marvin Menzies.
THE LAST MEETING
Wendell McKines posted a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and NM State dominated the glass in an 89-73 win over UTEP on Nov. 19 in Las Cruces.
The Aggies outrebounded the Miners 42-27 and had a 22-13 advantage in second chance points. NMSU also scored 24 points off 16 UTEP turnovers.
UTEP fell behind 6-0 in the opening minute, rallied to tie the game at eight, then went ahead for the first time at 21-19 on a three-pointer by Jacques Streeter with 9:24 to go in the half. The Miners maintained the lead until Bandja Sy buried a three-pointer with 4:30 left in the period, putting the Aggies ahead 33-32.
NMSU was up 42-38 at the half, then blew out to a 22-point lead (66-44) eight minutes into the second period before the Miners closed to within 10 points three times in the last five minutes. After John Bohannon's dunk sliced the deficit to 78-68 with 3:29 to play, Tshilidzi Nephawe scored four straight points to give the Aggies some breathing room.
Bohannon and D'Von Campbell led the Min- ers with 11 points each. Cedrick Lang scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, while Julian Washburn and Hooper Vint chipped in with nine and eight points respectively.
Christian Kabongo and Sy each buried three three-pointers as the Aggies shot 9-for-18 from outside. NMSU also made 28 free throws; the Miners attempted 27.
UTEP'S LAST GAME
Michael Perez scored 13 of his career-high 18 points in the second half, and UTEP gave Oregon all it could handle before falling 64-59 on Nov. 29 at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Miners, heavy underdogs to the Ducks, hung around all night and trailed just 60-59 after Malcolm Moore hit a couple of free throws with 34 seconds to play. But Oregon scored the game's final four points on a dunk by Olu Ashaolu with 0:22 left and a pair of foul shots by Garrett Sim with nine seconds to go.
After the teams battled to a 23-23 tie at the half, Oregon buried three three-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half in surging to a 35-26 lead. The Ducks kept the Miners at arm's length until Perez's three-point play drew UTEP to within one (56-55) with 1:38 to go.
The Ducks had the answer for every UTEP bucket down the stretch, and the Miners couldn't take the lead despite closing the gap to a point three times in the final two minutes.
The Miners shot 59.3 percent from the field in the second half and 49.1 percent on the night. They also outrebounded the Ducks 31-29, but finished 6-for-16 at the line while Oregon was 15-for-18 at the stripe.
Oregon received a breakout game from Johnathan Loyd, who hit six three pointers and scored a career-high 24 points.
The Miners received an emotional lift from the return of senior Gabe McCulley, who played 17 of his 24 minutes in the first half. John Bohannon was UTEP's second double-figure scorer with 13 points.
RICHARDSON IS SUNDAY'S MINER LEGEND
For the second year in a row, UTEP is hon- oring past great players at halftime of this season's games. On Sunday, the Miners will retire Nolan Richardson's #42. Other retired numbers in UTEP's history are #14 (Nate Archibald) and #45 (Jim Barnes).
Richardson played three seasons for the Miners (1960-63), including two under Hall of Famer Don Haskins. He was the team's leading scorer as a sophomore, collecting 21.0 points per game. He concluded his career with 1,045 points and ranks in the top-15 in school history in both scoring (14.7 ppg/13th) and rebound (7.7 rpg/12th) average.
As a coach, Richardson won the 1980 National Junior College title at Western Texas Junior College, the 1981 National Invitation Tournament title at Tulsa and the 1994 NCAA title at Arkansas. His career head coaching record was 508-206. In 22 years as a college head coach (1980-2002), Richardson's teams made 20 postseason tournament appearances (16 NCAA). He was named the 1994 Naismith and NABC Coach of the Year.
UTEP IN THE C-USA STATISTICS
Category Stat Rank
Individual Category Stat Rank
BETTER ON THE ROAD?
The Miners have been much more efficient from an offensive standpoint in their two road games than in their three home contests. UTEP has averaged 50.3 points in the Haskins Center and was held to 35 points -- its lowest total ever in the arena -- by Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26. The Miners have made exactly 8-of-25 shots in the first half in each of their three home games. UTEP is shooting 38.6 percent at home this season. On the road, the Miners have averaged 66 points with a .472 field goal percentage.
While UTEP has had its offensive struggles at home, the Miners have yielded over 20 fewer points per game at home (55.7 avg.) than on the road (76.5 avg.).
A GOOD SHOOTING NIGHT
UTEP made 49.1 percent of its shots at Oregon, its second-best field goal percentage in a road game under Tim Floyd (the Miners shot 50 percent at NM State last season). UTEP's .593 field goal percentage in the final 20 minutes at Oregon also marked its second-best effort in a road game under Floyd; the Miners connected on 62.5 percent of their shots in the first half at NMSU a year ago.
UTEP outrebounded Oregon 31-29 after getting dominated on the boards (42-27) in its first road game at NM State on Nov. 19. Leading the way was sophomore center John Bohannon, who came within a rebound of his third career double-double. Bohannon had a big second half against the Ducks, with eight of his 13 points and six of his nine rebounds coming in the final 20 minutes.
PEREZ HAS BREAKOUT GAME
Sophomore guard Michael Perez, who averaged nearly 30 points per game as a senior at Pueblo High School in Tucson, Ariz., scored in double figures for the first time as a Miner at Oregon on Nov. 29. Perez poured in 18 points, including nine of UTEP's 13 during a stretch of 5:27 late in the second half. The 18 points were the most by a UTEP player off the bench since Randy Culpepper scored 24 versus Michigan on Nov. 27, 2010.
MINERS HAVE RECEIVED CONTRIBUTIONS IN RESERVE
UTEP's bench has produced 20 points or more in four of five games this season. Compare that number to the 2010-11 season, in which the Miners received 20+ points from their reserves just six times in 35 outings. UTEP has a slim advantage in bench points this season (105-100), as Michael Perez (23 points) and freshman center Hooper Vint (22 points) have been the top scorers off the pine.
McCULLEY IS BACK
UTEP's lone senior, forward Gabriel McCulley, made his season debut at Oregon. He missed the first four games after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his leg. McCulley played 17 of his 24 minutes in the first half against the Ducks and finished with one rebound, two assists and two steals.
McCulley will be playing his ninth game against NM State on Sunday. He faced the Aggies twice early in the 2009-10 season before redshirting. Here is a look at McCulley's game-by-game stats versus the Aggies.
Date Min FG 3FG FT Reb Ast Blk Stl Pts
* Indicates home game
McCULLEY GETTING HIS FILL OF THE AGGIES
A redshirt year (2009-10) has given Gabriel McCulley nine opportunities to face I-10 rival NM State. The last Miner to play as many games versus the Aggies was Roy Smallwood, who had 10 encounters with NMSU in a career spanning from 1999-2004.
FIVE GAMES, FOUR LINEUPS
Coach Tim Floyd has been searching for a winning combination, utilizing four different starting lineups in the first five games. Freshman forward Julian Washburn is the only Miner to start all five games, and nine players have made starts. Floyd did shorten his bench the last time out at Oregon, as only eight players saw extensive action after nine played 10 or more minutes in each of the first four contests.
Can the Miners have a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for the first time this season on Sunday against NM State? UTEP came close in the last two games versus Stephen F. Austin (eight assists/nine turnovers) and Oregon (12 assists/13 turnovers). The Miners have done a much better job taking care of the basketball game-to-game. They had lowered their turnover count in four straight outings and had a season-low nine giveaways versus Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 26) prior to coughing up the basketball a still-respectable 13 times at Oregon last week.
DEFENSE GIVING MINERS A CHANCE ON THE ROAD
UTEP has put itself in position to win several road games under coach Tim Floyd by holding the opposition in check offensively. Including last week's 64-59 loss at Oregon, the Miners have yielded fewer than 70 points in eight of their last 10 games away from El Paso. The exception was an 83-76 setback at East Carolina last year, in which the Miners were whistled for 27 fouls and the Pirates went to the line 45 times.
UTEP's defensive gameplan under coach Tim Floyd involves getting the other team's top offensive players out of sync. Last week, Oregon's top two scorers (Garrett Sim & E.J. Singler) came into the game averaging 26.8 points collectively, but against the Miners they were 2-for-12 from the floor in totaling 11 points. Here's a look at the job UTEP has done defending teams' top scorers this year.
Opp. Leading Scorer Vs. UTEP
* Scoring average from 2010-11 season
MINERS IN REBUILDING MODE
For the first time since the 2002-03 season, UTEP has yet to crack 80 points in its first five games. And for the first time in nine years, the Miners are off to a 1-4 start. The 2002-03 squad also had one senior (Justino Victoriano), was led in scoring by a freshman (Giovanni St. Amant), and played its sixth game versus NM State. The 2002-03 team, incidentally, hit the 80-point mark in its seventh game, a 91-72 rout of Tennessee State.
FRESHMEN MAKING MAJOR CONTRIBUTIONS
Freshmen have accounted for 53 percent of the Miners' points and 53.6 percent of their rebounds this season. UTEP's leading scorer (Julian Washburn) and rebounder (Cedrick Lang) are both freshmen for the first time since the 1977-78 season, when Earl Fuller (10.5 ppg) and Anthony Burns (9.3 rpg) handled the respective honors.
UTEP has received statistical superlatives from freshmen in each of the last two games. Lang's four blocked shots versus Stephen F. Austin were the most by a rookie since Stanley Branch had four against Texas Tech on Dec. 4, 2004. Washburn's four steals at Oregon were the most by a freshman since Arnett Moultrie collected four at UAB on Jan. 21, 2009.
STREETER ASSIST COUNT ADDING UP
After leading the Big West Conference in assist/turnover ratio in back-to-back seasons (2008-10), junior guard Jacques Streeter is continuing his career with the Miners. He has led the Miners in assists in all five games, giving him 310 dimes in 68 college contests. Streeter has shot well from three-point range this season (7-for-12), but is 3-for-16 on his two-point tries.