POSTED: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 11:01pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 - 11:41pm
UTEP (19-5, 7-2 C-USA) tips off a demanding stretch of four games in eight days on Wednesday at Southern Miss (18-6, 7-4 C-USA). The Miners will host Houston on Saturday and UCF on Monday (in a makeup of a game originally scheduled to be played on Feb. 2) before taking on East Carolina in Greenville on Wednesday, Feb. 23.
The Miners maintained their first-place standing in C-USA with a 67-57 win over SMU on Saturday in El Paso -- snapping the Mustangs’ five-game winning streak in the process. UTEP leads second-place UAB (18-6, 8-3) by percentage points and third-place Memphis (19-6, 7-3) by a half-game. Southern Miss sits in fourth place in the league.
The Miners and Golden Eagles are hooking up once in regular season play after meeting on multiple occasions in each of the last four seasons. UTEP went 6-2 versus Southern Miss during that stretch (4-0 in El Paso, 2-2 in Hattiesburg). With one more victory, the Miners will have 20 wins for the 24th time in school history and for the third consecutive season.
UTEP Coach Tim Floyd will return to his hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss. for Wednesday’s game. Floyd’s late father, Lee, coached the Golden Eagles for 14 seasons (1949-54 and 1962-71) and is the second-winningest coach in school history with 246 victories. Floyd’s mother and sister still live in Hattiesburg.
Floyd spent two seasons as a walk-on at Southern Miss before finishing his collegiate playing career at Louisiana Tech. He will be coaching against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg for the second time, the first coming on Jan. 23, 1989. Floyd’s New Orleans squad dropped a 79-68 decision to the Golden Eagles on that day. Floyd is 1-1 versus Southern Miss in his coaching career, including a 77-75, double overtime victory in New Orleans during the ‘89-90 season.
Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy was an assistant to Tim Floyd at Idaho during the 1986-87 season. Eustachy later was the head coach at Iowa State (1998-2003) following Floyd’s stint at the school (1994-98).
UTEP assistant Phil Johnson and Southern Miss assistant Steve Barnes were both the head coach at San Jose State -- Johnson from 1998-99 and 2002-05, and Barnes in between (1999-2002).
Southern Miss junior guard Angelo Johnson played for Tim Floyd for one season at USC (2007-08) before making his way to Hattiesburg.
The Golden Eagles are 10-1 at home this season, and led by as many as 18 points in their lone loss at Reed Green Coliseum, a 76-75 setback to Memphis on Jan. 19.
Southern Miss had won four straight games before falling to the Tigers at the FedExForum, 67-61, on Saturday. Memphis didn’t take its first lead until 7:50 remaining in the game.
The Golden Eagles rank in the top-40 nationally in rebound margin (10th, +7.9), scoring offense (35th, 76.3 ppg) and scoring margin (35th, +9.8). Johnson is fourth in the country in assist/turnover ratio (3.37) and senior forward Gary Flowers is 24th in scoring (19.9 ppg). Flowers is second in C-USA in scoring, fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.438), fifth in blocks (1.7 avg.), and seventh in rebounding (7.6 avg.) and field goal percentage (.480).
UTEP owns an 11-4 advantage in the series. The Miners are 8-2 versus the Golden Eagles since joining Conference USA and have won the last four meetings between the schools.
The teams have split six games in Hattiesburg, with the Miners winning the last two games played there -- 81-70 during the 2008-09 season and 59-56 a year ago.