Miners Pursue First Winning Streak of the Season on Monday
Dec. 18, 2011
UTEP (3-5) seeks back-to-back victories for the first time this season when McNeese State (4-5) comes to the Don Haskins Center on Monday. Tip-off is set for 7:05 p.m. The Miners are fresh off an 87-57 win over Southern on Saturday night.
All copper reserved tickets are $9 for Monday's game, a 50 percent savings from the regular price.
The Miners (3-2 at home) have won three of their last four games in the Haskins Center, including topping UC Riverside on Nov. 13 (52-41) and NM State on Dec. 11 (73-69). UTEP is 18-1 in its last 19 December home games dating back to the 2006-07 season with a current 11-game winning streak.
UTEP will depart El Paso for Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday morning and participate in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 23-25 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
SCOUTING McNEESE STATE
The Cowboys are 1-5 on the road this season with a win over Louisiana (78-56) on Dec. 1. The record, however, doesn't tell the full story as McNeese dropped a close contest at Louisiana Tech (60-58) on Dec. 14 and trailed 20th-ranked California 28-26 at the half in Berkeley before falling 73-57 on Nov. 28.
McNeese has a couple of players with double figure scoring averages in senior swingman Patrick Richard (16.4 ppg) and junior guard Jeremie Mitchell (13.0 ppg). Mitchell ranks among the most prolific three-point shooters in the NCAA, firing at a 40 percent clip from outside while averaging 2.9 triples per contest. New Mexico transfer and former UTEP recruiting target Will Brown averages 3.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg for the Cowboys.
Sixth-year head Coach Dave Simmons played his college ball at Louisiana Tech starting in 1977, a year after Tim Floyd was a student assistant with the Bulldogs.
McNeese was 21-12 last year, 11-5 in the Southland Conference (tied for first place) and participated in the postseason NIT.
UTEP won both previous meetings with the Cowboys. The Miners topped McNeese 82-72 on Dec. 18, 1982, and 84-74 on March 14, 2001. Both games were played in the Sun City. The latter was a first round matchup in the postseason NIT.
The Miners' all-time record versus Southland Conference opponents is 29-4, including 24-3 in El Paso. The Miners are 0-2 against Southland teams on their home floor this season, however, falling to UTSA on Nov. 11 (73-64) and Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26 (53-35).
UTEP's Tim Floyd hasn't coached against McNeese State.
THE LAST MEETING
UTEP jumped out to a 42-23 halftime lead en route to an 84-74 win over McNeese State in an NIT first round game on March 14, 2001 in the Haskins Center.
McNeese State shot 33.7 percent and was crushed on the boards, 57-37.
Brandon Wolfram posted 24 points, Brian Stewart 17 and Leonard Owens 13 for UTEP, which placed all five starters in double figure scoring. Roy Smallwood and Eugene Costello chipped in with 11 and 10 points respectively.
UTEP had a 15-0 run midway through the first half, turning a 14-13 deficit into a 28-14 lead. The final margin was as close as McNeese State, the Southland Conference regular season champion, could get in the second half.
McNeese State tied the Haskins Center record for field goal attempts by an opponent with 83. Demond Mallet led the Cowboys with 23 points, going 6-for-16 from three-point territory. The Cowboys attempted 35 threes and made 12.
UTEP IN THE C-USA STATISTICS
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MINERS CRACK 80 POINTS
UTEP, which has struggled to score this season, put 80 points on the board for the first time with Saturday's 87-57 rout of Southern. The last time the Miners went as many as eight games deep into a season before scoring 80 points was 1981-82, when they achieved the feat in their 11th game versus Angelo State (83-67 win).
UTEP also pushed its season scoring average above 60 points (62.1 ppg) for the first time since Nov. 26 with Saturday's victory.
SHOOTING PERCENTAGE ESCALATING
The Miners hit 40.5 percent (79-of-195) of their shots in the first four games of the season, but since senior Gabriel McCulley returned from injury they have shot 49 percent or better in three of four contests. During that span UTEP has compiled a field goal percentage of .477 (103-of-216). The Miners were 10th in Conference USA in field goal percentage following a 53-35 loss to Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26, but they now sit fourth (.443).
MINERS CASH IN FROM LONG RANGE
UTEP made 12 three pointers against Southern on Saturday after not hitting more than seven in any of the first seven games. The 12 triples are tied for the 13th-top total in school history and are tied for the most under coach Tim Floyd. UTEP also made 12 trifectas versus NM State in the Haskins Center last season. The Miners' five starters versus Southern -- Gabriel McCulley, Cedrick Lang, Julian Washburn, Jacques Streeter and Michael Perez -- were a combined 8-for-10 from beyond the arc, including 5-for-5 in the second half.
A GREAT SHOOTING NIGHT ALL AROUND
The Miners, who entered the Southern game last in C-USA in free throw percentage, made 15-of-16 foul shots versus the Jaguars. They hadn't shot better than 75 percent from the line in any of the previous seven games. UTEP's .938 free throw percentage versus Southern tied for eighth-best in school history with a minimum of 10 attempts. The Miners made their last 11 freebies in the game.
ASSIST/TURNOVER RATIO +24 IN LAST 2 HOME GAMES
The Miners have recorded 43 assists and only 19 turnovers in posting back-to-back home wins over NM State (73-69) and Southern (87-57). UTEP has posted 20+ assists in consecutive home games for the first time since Feb. 13, 2010 versus East Carolina (29) and Feb. 27, 2010 against Rice (21). The Miners' six turnovers versus Southern were their fewest since March 2, 2011 against Marshall (five). The Miners' three point guards (Jacques Streeter, C.J. Cooper, D'Von Campbell) combined for nine assists and no turnovers.
THREE IS WHAT WE NEED
UTEP is 3-2 when three or more players score in double figures this season, and 0-3 when two or fewer achieve the feat. The Miners have placed three players in double figures in a season-high three consecutive games. UTEP is 3-1 this season when freshman swingman Julian Washburn posts 10 points or more. Washburn is averaging 16.3 ppg in victories and 8.8 ppg in defeats.
UTEP has allowed less than 70 points in each of its last five games after yielding 73 or more in two of the first three contests. During that stretch the Miners' scoring defense is 61.6 ppg. UTEP went nine games in a row without giving up 70 points last season (Jan. 12-Feb. 19), its high water mark under coach Tim Floyd.
TAKE A LOOK AT THIS STAT
UTEP had a 21-2 edge in points off turnovers versus Southern on Saturday. The +19 differential was the Miners' best since Jan. 15, 2011 versus Rice (+20, 22-2). UTEP has played 10 games under coach Tim Floyd where it scored 10 or more points off turnovers than the opposition, including nine last season.
UTEP WINS GOING AWAY
The Miners blew out Southern on Saturday (87-57) to tie their second-largest margin of victory under coach Tim Floyd. UTEP also beat Louisiana-Monroe by 30 (79-49) last season.
THE WINNING COMBINATION?
UTEP Coach Tim Floyd has utilized six different starting lineups in eight games, but only one group has posted a 2-0 record. With Cedrick Lang, Gabriel McCulley & Julian Washburn up front and Michael Perez & Jacques Streeter manning the backcourt, the Miners polished off NM State (73-69) and Southern (87-57) in their last two home games.
BENCH GETS A LIFT FROM UNLIKELY SOURCES
UTEP received 24 points from its reserves on Saturday against Southern after the bench averaged 7.0 ppg in the previous two games. The Miners picked up eight and six points respectively from freshmen Jalen Ragland and C.J. Cooper. Ragland and Cooper combined for a total of 23 points in the first seven games of the season. Cooper, meanwhile, saw his first action in three games and was on the floor for a UTEP-high 23 minutes.
THIN UP FRONT
The Miners are depleted inside with the loss of junior forward Malcolm Moore, who tore his ACL in practice on Friday and is out for the remainder of the season. UTEP is also without the services of freshman center Hooper Vint (bulging disk in his back) indefinitely. That leaves just two players 6-9 or taller (John Bohannon & Cedrick Lang) on the active roster. The Miners have added some beef inside in 6-5, 245-pound Kevin Perry, who doubles as a tight end on the UTEP football team. Perry, who has played in five games for the Miners (including four last season), scored his first field goal against Southern on Saturday.
A FIRST FOR McCULLEY
Senior forward Gabriel McCulley has scored in double figures in three straight games for the first time as a Miner. McCulley, who has been on the floor for 110 contests at UTEP, is 10 away from cracking UTEP's top-15 list for games played (Kent Lockhart and Quintan Gates are currently tied for 14th place with 120 games).
McCulley led the Miners in scoring against Southern on Saturday (19 points) for just the second time. The first was on March 10, 2011 against Marshall in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals (14 points).
McCulley leads the Miners in scoring (13.0 ppg), rebounding (6.0 rpg) and field goal percentage (.645).