POSTED: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 5:59pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 - 5:53pm
UTEP (20-7, 8-4 C-USA) hopes to bounce back from a disappointing home loss on Wednesday at East Carolina (13-13, 5-7 C-USA). The Miners had their 15-game winning streak in the Don Haskins Center snapped against UCF, 74-68, on Monday. UTEP, which hasn’t dropped back-to-back games all season, now takes on the vastly improved Pirates, who are 9-4 at home this season under the direction of first-year coach Jeff Lebo. East Carolina has knocked off three C-USA opponents (Tulane, Houston, UCF) in Greenville.
The Miners have four regular season games remaining -- two at home and two on the road -- prior to hosting the Conference USA Tournament March 9-12. UTEP will host Memphis on Saturday at 1 p.m. in a nationally televised game (ESPN2). On the docket for next week are a home game versus Marshall (March 2) and a road date with SMU (March 5). The top four teams in the league earn opening round byes in the C-USA Tournament, and it promises to be a wild finish as five teams have four league losses and SMU is lurking at 7-5 in conference play.
The Pirates have lost three straight games and five of their last seven. They are coming off a two-game road swing that produced losses at Tulsa (86-67) on Feb. 16 and Southern Miss (72-55) on Feb. 19. East Carolina has lost three of its last five home conference games. The Pirates are averaging 4,597 fans in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, which seats 8,000. ECU’s average home attendance in C-USA play is 5,570, and the Pirates have drawn more than 6,000 fans for each of their last three league contests.
Senior guard Jontae Sherrod (15.0 ppg), junior forward Darius Morrow (12.0 ppg) and senior guard Brock Young (10.7 ppg) are the Pirates’ leading scorers. Sophomore guard Corvonn Gaines is third in C-USA in assist/turnover ratio (2.3). The Pirates are second in the league in turnover margin (+2.6) for conference games only behind UTEP, as well as tied for second in steals (7.5 avg.).
UTEP has won four of the previous five matchups between the schools, including three straight. The Miners are 1-1 versus the Pirates in Greenville with a 79-78 loss on Feb. 24, 2007 and an 88-67 win on Jan. 17, 2009.
Two of the highest scoring games in UTEP history have come against the Pirates. Randy Culpepper poured in 45 points, including 31 in the first half, in last year’s 100-76 Miner victory in El Paso. Stefon Jackson tallied 30 of his 41 points in the second half in UTEP’s 91-62 rout at the Haskins Center during the 2007-08 season. He accounted for the Miners’ first 16 points out of the break.
UTEP has had a 20-point scorer in every game it has played against East Carolina -- Jason Williams in 2006 (22), Jackson in 2007 (24) & 2008 (41), and Culpepper in 2009 (25) and 2010 (45).
UTEP’s Tim Floyd has never coached against East Carolina or Jeff Lebo.
Randy Culpepper scored 45 points -- tied for the second-highest total in both UTEP and Conference USA history -- as UTEP ran away from East Carolina, 100-76, on Feb. 13, 2010 at the Don Haskins Center.
Culpepper set UTEP and C-USA records for points in a half by exploding for 31 in the opening 20 minutes versus the Pirates. He finished 14-for-18 from the field, 9-for-12 from three-point range and 8-for-12 from the line. Culpepper tied his own school record for three pointers made in a game while becoming the fourth UTEP player to score 40 or more points.
UTEP set a school team record for first-half points (63), and tied the single-game standards for three-pointers (15) and assists (29). The Miners scored 100 points for the first and only time since joining Conference USA.
The game was over early, as UTEP turned a 16-15 deficit into a 57-23 lead with a 42-7 run stretching over 10 and a half minutes in the first half. The Miners, who led by as many as 38 points, received 13 points and nine rebounds from Derrick Caracter and 11 assists from Julyan Stone.